Nigerian con artists aren't just targeting e-mail accounts. Brian says these scams are also infiltrating a post office near you. Postal inspectors have intercepted at least 6 million scam letters and counterfeit checks sent to the United States from Nigeria, all addressed to specific individuals.
Postal inspector Steve Korinko says scammers use American phone books and special computer programs that pull up e-mail addresses to find their next victims. Of the millions of Americans they target, Steve says about 1 percent of people fall for it, which is enough to keep them in business.
Brian says very intelligent and well-educated people have fallen for these scams. Some are motivated by greed, while others are truly trying to help those in need. "A lot of the victims have been Christian ministers," Brian says. "They're told, 'There's $30 million [in Nigeria] we want to give to help small churches across the country. Just give us some money to [help transport] it out of Nigeria.'"
Many of the cons lure people in by stealing the names and photos of real people. One e-mail Brian came across claimed to be from an American soldier in Iraq who found Saddam Hussein's hidden fortune. All the recipient had to do to share in the wealth was pay the fee required to transport the funds.