The Better Business Bureau urges business owners to exercise caution when in receipt of a letter from a Nigerian "official". These letters have been targeting North American companies since at least 1983.
The writer of the letter, usually identifying themselves as a Doctor or a Prince, claims to be associated with a ministry of the Nigerian government. The only change in the letter over the years is that the grammar and spelling have improved.
The basis of the scheme is that the Nigerian official is interested in transferring excess funds that have resulted from a recent over-invoicing of contracts, an undeclared windfall or some other reason. These "funds" allegedly range from 30 million to 41.5 million dollars. The letter states that due to political turmoil in Nigeria, the Nigerian individual wishes to move the money to foreign accounts.
The letter asks your company assist with this transfer of money by faxing the following information:
- your bank account number,
- a copy of your company letterhead,
- a copy of your company invoice sheets
In return for your assistance, the funds will be disbursed as follows:
- 30% to the foreign partners (a business in Canada)
- 10% is used for company expenses
- 60% remaining is for the Nigerian individual.
Once a business expresses interest in the scheme, the Nigerian individual states that complications have occurred, and money is needed from the foreign partner. The excuse most often used is that the money is needed to bribe a government officer in order to allow the transfer of funds.
There is absolutely no truth to these letters, and in fact, one Calgary business lost 480,000 dollars in this scheme. Calgary Police report that those foolish enough to go to Nigeria to get their cash back or to check out the investment are putting themselves in harm's way. There have been reports of the business representatives being threatened with jail for their involvement in the scheme, as well as physical violence. It is also reported that a British man was killed trying to recover his money.
The RCMP Economic Crime Directorate estimates 15 million dollars has been sucked from Canadians since the early 1990s. To protect your business from becoming a victim to this type of "business opportunity", remember: Investigate before you invest.