On Feb. 20, 2001, 'Mahmud Daya' contacted me by e-mail asking for my phone
and fax numbers saying he was looking for an American contact for conducting
importation of solar panels, farm equipment and computer goods, involving the
transfer of US$31,320,000.00. He said that there would be negotiable
compensation for performing this service.
Because I am a distributor for Global
Sun Ovens, I thought he had contacted me because of that. I replied
saying I was interested and that I would like more information. I
presumed that his follow-up correspondence would contain information about
what country he was from and what business he was representing -- information
omitted in his initial email address.
When no response came, I presumed they had found another company with which
to do business (presuming this to be a legitimate inquiry). Why would
someone with so much money contact little ol' me? It was a little more
like winning the lottery than conducting business compared to the volume I am
accustomed to. Nevertheless, I happen to be engaged in another venture,
a legitimate one, involving the sale of sun
ovens in Pakistan, so I presumed that perhaps heaven was just smiling on
me, though I was doubtful that the claim would actually come through. It
was just 'too good to be true.'
But then after about a week I received a couple phone calls from 'Africa' by a
person with a heavy accent regarding a pending fax. I suggested he send
the information by email, but (not wanting an e-paper trail) he insisted on
using FAX, and did not want to use my efax service but wanted a direct line,
which I gave him.
Nothing arrived after the first call, but it did after the second. My
mother-in-law, whose fax machine I was using, said to me, "are you
sitting down?" She then said the fax had come and that they were
offering 7.9 MILLION DOLLARS in compensation. Mirroring my
unspoken sentiments, she said she thought it looked fishy, but added that
perhaps this could be one of those astonishing blessings that sometimes come
along in life. Of course there was a part of me that wanted to believe
this, despite the common sense that said it was a fraud.
As my wife and I read it through and talked about it, neither of us
suspected that we were the intended victims. We only thought in terms of
the strong likelihood that the money had not been obtained through legal or
ethical means, in which case we would not want to have anything to do with it
other than to help bring these guys down and return the purported money back
to its rightful owners if possible. Still, there was that small glimmer
of hope that these guys were honest and that we could be helping them in a
legitimate way. The screaming contradiction to this, though, was that
they were offering us 25% of the money, just for holding the money in our
account on their behalf. Why would they offer us such a large sum if
they had obtained the money legitimately. Prior to receipt of the
fax, were prepared to ask for a 1% commission of $31,320, thinking that this
was reasonable, supposing that most of the money would be involved in the
transaction involving the purported goods.
Another major red flag in the fax was their repeatedly stating the need to keep
this absolutely CONFIDENTIAL. How do you keep 31 million dollars
in your account 'confidential' in America? The bank, the government,
and the IRS would immediately know, and would want answers as to the origin of
the money. Furthermore, because the account we intended to use is a
business account, I would be obliged to inform at least my partners as to the
The catch, which I didn't catch at first, was
that they requested me to send my bank account information so
they could make the wire transfers into my account. In my ignorance of
financial matters, I was unaware that such information would enable them to
also WITHDRAW fund from my account. Being the trusting person
that I am, prior to receipt of the fax, I had actually composed an e-mail
message volunteering that information for them in preparation for the transfer
of funds INTO my account -- of course after I had had a chance to review their
proposal. (Fortunate for me, with the distractions of the eventful day,
I did not get around to hitting 'send' on this e-mail message I had composed.)
Considering that there were too many questionable things about the
arrangement, I called a local
branch of the FBI. I thought that if they were indeed legitimate
that the FBI would walk away after confirming this, but if they were not, I
could help bring the criminals to justice.
When I contacted the local FBI branch, the officer asked me if I had sent
them my bank info. Thinking I had sent that e-mail I began composing, I
said 'yes.' Being familiar with the tactic, he had me immediately get
off the phone and call my bank to have them put a hold on my account.
In talking to the bank Vice President, I learned that a scam very similar
to this had surfaced six years ago, and that the FDIC had issued a fraud alert
to its member banks titled, "Americans Losing Lives in Nigerian Money
Scam." He also told me that there had been several victims from
this area. He also faxed to me a copy of one of the letters one of his
customers had received. It read nearly identical to the one I received.
Gratefully, my story has a happy ending in that I was not taken for a ride.
Others who are obviously being targeted by this scam as well, will not be so
Hopefully this page can help expose this scam, diminish the number of
victims, and ultimately put the perpetrators behind bars.
Sterling D. Allan
March 6, 2001
Follow-up Phone Call from 'Mahmud'
After recording the above account of my experience with this so far, last
night at two something in the morning, our phone rang. It was 'Mahmud'
placing a follow-up call to see if we had received the fax. At first, I
played along with him, expressing some of my reservations about the
arrangement to see what he might say. Because his accent is so heavy, I
wasn't sure what he was saying other than that he had clever come-backs
I then informed him that upon receipt of his fax yesterday, before reading
it myself, I sent a copy to my attorney friend who warned me of the high
likelihood of this being a scam. That did not deter 'Mahmud.' He
continued to talk as though we could work this out. (He wanted me to
send my account info.)
I told him I found out that by giving out my account info, he would then
have authorization to withdraw from my account as well as deposit to it, and
that I had therefore placed a block on my account. He had a comeback for
that too, which I did not understand because of his accent.
I next told him that I had also contacted
the FBI who further informed me that this was a scam. Either he did
not understand me, or he was unruffled, but he continued to talk to me as
though he was prepared to go ahead with this. (He wanted my account
info.) But he did shift to another tactic. He said that if I
didn't want to do this, he had already contacted some alternative sources who
were willing to do this, and he would go with them instead.
I also shifted tactics. I told them (also bluffing, but not
completely, for I was hopefully speaking in a future if not present tense),
that the FBI was tracking their calls and their transactions and that when
they had enough evidence they were going to be moving in and taking them down
and putting them in jail. I repeated this several times. I don't
think 'Mahmud' got it the first or second time. Either that or he was
not scared because -- as the FBI agent told me -- it is very hard to convict a
case like this in Nigeria because of the corruption in the government.
Finally, after I (bluffing) said that the FBI was monitoring this very
call, he said he would not be dealing with me and he hung up.
Sterling D. Allan
March 7, 2001