Lebanon woman loses $60,000 in online scheme
LEBANON – The lady in Nigeria was on her deathbed, she said in her e-mails.
She was a Christian woman dying in a non-Christian country, with $3.2 million in the bank. She wanted to send the money to the United States where Christian charities could use the money.
Would Karen Boltz help the woman fulfill her dying wish?
The woman sent several e-mails to Boltz, 55, asking for her help, said South Lebanon Twp. Police Chief Mike Lesher.
The Nigerian woman asked Boltz to send money to pay the transfer fees on the $3.2 million. In return, the woman would repay Boltz, Lesher said.
Boltz said she secured $60,000 in loans and cash advances on her credit cards and sent the money to Nigeria.
When she heard nothing more from the Nigerian woman, Boltz called South Lebanon Twp. police.
“I was shocked they used the Christian angle,” South Lebanon Twp. Patrolman Dennis Royer said. “It worked like the basic Nigerian scam.”
The Nigerians found Boltz’s name online in a church directory, with her address and e-mail address, Royer said. Most important, they knew Boltz attended church and tailored their appeal to Boltz’s Christian beliefs.
Boltz’s telephone number is disconnected. She could not be reached for this story.
“The only way to catch these people is with people on the ground” in Nigeria, Royer said. “Once in a while, arrests are made, but certainly local law enforcement can’t deal with it. The real way to solve the [problem] is to educate people so they don’t become the victim.”
Paul Bresson, spokesman for the FBI’s white-collar-crime unit in Washington, D.C., said the Nigerian scheme with variations has been around a long time.
“Fraud letters emanating from Nigeria isn’t anything new,” Bresson said. “That’s been going on for years. With the Internet, a lot of that is migrating online, and what we’re seeing is variations of different schemes perpetrated by individuals living in Nigeria.”
Although Bresson had not heard of this appeal targeting Christians, last year Americans lost $1.6 million to Nigerian scams with an average loss of $3,864. In recent weeks, other midstaters were touched by Nigeria scams:
On Oct. 24, Jaqueline L. Bryson Kapp, 76, of Landisburg, Perry County, who operates the Twin Meadows Glenn Bed and Breakfast, received a fake cashier’s check drawn on Commerce Bank from a potential client from Nigeria who was trying to make reservations for four couples. Suspicious of the check, Kapp had it verified before depositing it and learned that the check was a forgery.
On Aug. 10, a Newport, Perry County, woman was scammed out of $4,200 after wiring money to a man she met through a personal dating service, police said. Police said the man sent the woman a cashier’s check to cash, then asked her to withdraw the money and wire it to the man in Nigeria. The victim was later informed that the check was a fake, and she was responsible for repayment of the money to the bank, police said.
On May 5, a 36-year-old North Londonderry Twp., Lebanon County, man lost $2,500 in a Nigerian-run scam. The offer began in a Yahoo chat room on the Internet.
Bresson said people should follow one basic rule:
“If it sounds too good to be true, it most certainly is. Be very skeptical of any solicitations for any personal information, any financial information, if anyone asks you for money. Really, the consumer ought to be very leery of that type of situation. Ensure that whoever is sending this to you is legitimate.”
People should check with consumer groups, such as the Better Business Bureau, to verify that the information comes from a legitimate source, Bresson said.
“The general rule of thumb is to be very skeptical of solicitations coming from outside the United States,” not just Nigeria, Bresson said.