Sunday, August 28, 2005

Nigerian-style scammers use extortion in the form of death and injury threats to force victims to launder money

by Annie McGuire

Entertainer Leah Winslett, and apparently music producer Chris Julian, know first hand how vicious the threats can be.

For at least the last year and a half that I know of, Nigerian scammers have been using threats to force their victims to cooperate with their demands.

Nigerian-style scammers weave counterfeit checks into every scam scenario they have developed, and there are 25-30 different scams not including combinations. 

Counterfeit money orders, corporate checks, cashier's checks, electronic checks, or personal checks are sent to victims by standard ground mail, FedEx, or UPS. Occasionally, funds from counterfeit sources are wire transferred directly into the victim's bank account, or QChex are sent by unauthorized individuals who are unverified QChex account holders.

Instructions are given to the victim to wire a large portion of the funds back to the scammer or on to other names. 

At first the threats were limited to stating that if the victim did not send money, they would report the victim's activities to the FBI, Secret Service, or Scotland Yard.  We explained to those who contacted us that the criminals were not going report them to enforcement agencies because in the process it would give evidence to their own criminal activities. 

"Don't worry about it, just don't answer their calls, hang up, and cease all correspondence with the scammers," was the standard advice.

Where the victims had a telephone number listed on their caller ID, we were able to determine that the calls emanated from from pre-paid (throwaway) cell phones in the UK and West Africa. (

Of late, the tone of their threats has changed.

In the last few months we have begun receiving scattered letters and phone calls from victims reporting threats that indicate to us the Nigerians are upping the ante. 

The new phone threats we've been told about have been along the lines of "I know where you live, you've stolen my money, I will (burn your house down), (cause you much trouble), (find you)," or similar statements.

In the face of these new threats, we've explained that as long as there is no money to be had, the scammers are not going to spend what money they've already fraudulently acquired on travel to the victim's location, make good the threat, and place themselves at risk of pursuit by the authorities.  Nigerians fraudsters are, if nothing else, good businessmen.

Singer-songwriter Leah Winslett








Detroit Jewish News 8/2000


Leah Winslett

Then on August 19th, independent singer-songwriter Leah Winslett contacted us. 

Like Christian Julian Irwin, Winslett is the victim of a Nigerian scam.  And like Mr. Irwin, her current lack of cooperation has brought dire threats her way

According to Winslett, the warnings include threats to her children and father, accompanied by details of her children's schedules she's certain she never imparted to the scammer.

"Once I stopped responding to him," Winslett said, "his attitude toward me changed and he only wanted to talk about the money he wanted me to send him.  That is when he brought up all the things he knows about me including my social security number.  Plus he told me that he knows when my children go to their extra-curricular activities, and gave me the exact days and times."

"He kept saying over and over that I really need to do what he wants and not let him down," Winslett added.

As for Mr. Irwin, who fled into the California hillside on August 21st in an apparent effort to hide from what he assumed to be imminent danger, I can't give you the evolution of the scam perpetrated on him, nor the tenor of the threats it is reported he received.  What I can tell you is that Chris Julian Irwin had no frame of reference with which to assess the reality of those threats. 

Nothing prepares you for a threat on your life, spoken in your ear in cold and cruel tones.

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