The “Nigerian prince” email scam is one of the most notorious cybercimes out there, and the people behind it may have hit a bit of a snag after one of their alleged co-conspirators was arrested in Louisiana on Thursday.
Police arrested a 67-year-old man in Slidell, Louisiana after an 18-month investigation in connection with Nigerian prince email scams. The man is suspected of being a middle-man for a group in Nigeria that used the Nigerian prince email scam to get money from unsuspecting people, the Slidell Police Department announced on Facebook.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Nigerian prince email scam, the Federal Trade Commission dedicates an entire page to them on their website, which describes the common phishing tactic that continues to con people out of their money:
These messages are the butt of late night jokes, but people still respond to them. The people behind these messages claim to be officials, businesspeople, or the surviving spouses of former government honchos in Nigeria or another country whose money is tied up temporarily. They offer to transfer lots of money into your bank account if you will pay the fees or “taxes” they need to get their money. If you respond to the initial offer, you may receive documents that look “official.” They may even encourage you to travel to the country in question, or a neighboring country, to complete the transaction. Some fraudsters have produced trunks of dyed or stamped money to try to verify their claims.
The man police arrested, Michael Neu, is suspected of facilitating these transfers of money from victims to his co-conspirators. Neu faces 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering, having participated in hundreds of scam transactions.
Although the scam has become a bit of a joke like the FTC says, it still results in millions of dollars in losses for victims every year, and people who get caught up in the scams can sometimes face personal harm.
“According to State Department reports, people who have responded to these emails have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered,” the FTC states.
The Slidell Police Department said that its investigation is ongoing, but can be extremely difficult because many leads point toward people who live outside the United States. Although Neu himself is not Nigerian, the police stated that money acquired by Neu was wired to people in Nigeria.
Let this be a lesson to anyone on the internet: if a stranger is soliciting you for money, it’s probably not a good idea to just hand it over to them.