With 80 percent of Americans online, the internet has become the cityscape of the twenty-first century, and with it the good, the bad, and the unsavory. Criminals, in increasing numbers, are flocking to the online world as a new source of opportunity crime, the modern version of the pickpocket, praying on those less tech savvy. With the majority of Americans still somewhat befuddled by computer security, internet crime is a lucrative business.
However, in the world of con-artists and the conned, few stories stand out like that of Janella Spears.
Virtually all internet users have at one time or another received a desperate, if somewhat grammatically flawed plea from the "President of Nigeria" or possibly a banker in Bosnia. The story varies slightly -- a long lost relative or government official in a war torn country needs your help, but the ends are always the same -- they need your account information to wire money into it, or they need you to wire money to them before they supposedly send you a bigger payday.
While most delete these malicious missives, Mrs. Spears fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Mrs. Spears insists, though that she's no easy mark -- she's an active registered nurse, CPR trainer, and reverend who has married many couples. She's even fluent in sign-language, which she uses to communicate with her husband.
Mrs. Spears, though, lost nearly $400,000 USD to the "Nigeria scam" . When she received the first email, she read that she could receive $20M USD that had belonged to her grandfather. She insists she would not have believed it, if not for the fact that she had lost track with her grandfather over the years. She states, "So that's what got me to believe it."
The party asked her to send $100 and she complied. Then they said there were problems, and they needed more money, but she might get more. They worked up elaborate stories about how President Bush and FBI Director "Robert Muller" were in on the plans. They sent her "official" documents and certificates from the Bank of Nigeria and even from the United Nations.
The scammers instructed Mrs. Spears to send $8,300 more, telling her that her reward would rise to $26.6M USD. She complied. Many letters followed, each promising more money than the last -- if she would only send a bit more money. And every time she complied. Many of the letters were rife with typos, and yet she continued to send in the money, in a case of obsession fueled by greed.
Over the course of the scam she received letters from the President of Nigeria, FBI Director Mueller, and President Bush. They gave her dire warnings -- if she didn't continue sending the money, it could fall into terrorist hands. Of course, all the letters were entirely fake.
In the end, Mrs. Spears wiped her husband's bank account dry, mortgaged the house they owned, and took out a lien on their car to finance the payments. Despite pleas from law enforcement officials, her family and bank officials who told her it was a scam, she sent tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments over the course of two years. In the end she had lost $400,000 USD, virtually everything she had.
She says it was the perpetual promise that the next payment would lead to the final payoff that kept her going. It became an obsession.
A seasoned undercover investigator who worked on the case says that Mrs. Spears was blinded by greed. He says the scam was the worst he's ever seen. However, he says he's seen others, driven by greed, fall victim to the scam, hoping against common sense for a big payoff.
As for Mrs. Spears, she went public with her story, as she says it serves as a warning to others. However, in the end, like most outrageous crime stories, it could have been easily prevented if people exercise a bit more common sense.
quote: In any case, it's pretty easy to laugh it off to see someone get roped in and lose 400k. But I'm pretty sure if I called your mama and ripped her off of a few hundred when she's barely making it on her pension, you'd be blaming the scammer, and not the scammee.
quote: Nah, I'd laugh at her and probably tell her she was an idiot. I figure she would probably do the same to me.
quote: Despite pleas from law enforcement officials, her family and bank officials who told her it was a scam, she sent tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments over the course of two years.
quote: As the old saying goes "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me."
quote: That's true, if you are so gullible that you fall for religion, chances are you will fall for anything.
quote: A magic man floats around and made everything. He watches you all the time, but gets mad when you break the rules he knew you would break in the first place.
quote: He gets tired and has to rest a day after making everything?
quote: He supposedly made everything, but they show him making things in the wrong order to what has been scientifically shown to be the correct order.
quote: He condones slavery, human sacrifice, beating women and children through words and actions, but condemns things like eating ham?
quote: not all of these folks really believe that we were zapped into being 6,000 years ago.
quote: Better to talk about science when we actually have the knowledge to back it up, ain't that right?
quote: If they never existed, it would have happened, most likely much smoother with less "witch burnings" if you will.
quote: It is a facade, the sooner everyone wakes up and realizes that is the sooner we can finally rid our lives of superstition, biblical teachings, backwards beliefs, etc. etc. and start really pushing science and logic.
quote: Why not, god gifted men with freedom of choice, if god had now to correct the bible then he would have a lot of work knowing that the meaning of words keep changing...
quote: many of discoveries man made were done by religious people
quote: it was the church that stored and maintained works from "scientists"
quote: many of discoveries man made were done by religious people, actually for a long time it was the church that stored and maintained works from "scientists"
quote: and let's not even mention the fact that religion served has common point between men and men is much less likely to make war with someone he shares something than with a complete stranger.
quote: Kind of like how Muslims and Christians get along.
quote: Some similarities and many differences... people that follow the same religion will always share more points in common that people who don't.
quote: Your god thinks you are so stupid that you can't be told that pork can contain parasites if not cooked and stored properly?
quote: WTF? Have you ever spent any time with a baby? Please stay away from children.
quote: You are a terrible representative of a group that is about logic. You digress to name calling and overt emotion when your very thesis depends on logic and distancing yourself from emotion.
quote: Love God or hate God, all men will die one day and find themselves accountable before Him.
quote: It's a shell game to ask for logical proof of historical claims.
quote: I guess that some find comfort in believing that religious people are weaker or less intelligent than they are.
quote: The fact is that I and many others have had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, and nothing could ever convince me that my experience was somehow invalid.
quote: You know, I'm just not convinced by atheism. It just doesn't have much of a leg to stand on.
quote: I hold no position here but logic. If you can justify believing in a god that condones enslaving a group of people, beating women and children, hating homosexuals and human sacrifice, so be it.
quote: All I said was that you were misusing the word logic. Whenever you say "logic," as you do many times in each of your posts, you in fact mean "magic sauce which makes my all of my opinions right."
quote: No, believing in something without proof gave us irrational numbers, Euclidean Geometry, Calculus, Apollo 11, RSA Encryption, etc., etc.
quote: Wow, someone is diluted.
quote: If I told you a rock I gave you keeps tigers away, it would be my job to prove that.
quote: And with that final tired-ass Simpsons reference, you have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that you are incapable of independent thought.
quote: I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out, but it's uncanny how much you resemble Pirks. Your posting pattern is identical. The nasty, degrading insults are the same. And you try and draw people into the same circular reasoning, talking to a wall, type of arguments. Even your humor is the same. With Pirks, it was Apple and with this new ID you are using, it's probably going to be religion. In both cases, you don't care about the subject matter one bit so long as you make people angry. You are one disturbed individual if this is how you get your kicks. I knew the minute you bad-mouthed Apple in another thread. You're just trying to blow some smoke. But don't worry, it will come out.
quote: She deserved it, what a moron.
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quote: She's even fluent in sign-language, which she uses to communicate with her husband.
quote: "Despite pleas from law enforcement officials, her family and bank officials who told her it was a scam..."
quote: Liu my daughter and Lee my son
quote: it could have been easily prevented if people exercise a bit more common sense.