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Agencies Warn of Mail Scam

July 5, 2002 -

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner James T. Fleming and Department of Banking Commissioner John P. Burke today issued a warning to Connecticut consumers and businesses about an increase in the number of commercial fraud letters.

Most of the letters originate in Nigeria, but others are from other African, Asian and South American countries. The letters promise millions of dollars for cooperating with con artists who claim they are trying to transfer money to U.S. bank accounts.

“This scam has resurfaced statewide, with countless Connecticut businesses receiving a promise of easy riches to lure them into possibly illegal conduct,” Blumenthal said. “This scam reiterates the message we emphasize to both businesses and consumers: ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Anytime you are asked for your bank account number or other financial information, you should verify that the individual and transaction are legitimate. This rudimentary, common sense practice is true in these mail scams and in all modern-day business dealings.”

“These international scams aren't limited to the postal system; we see increasing numbers coming over the Internet,” Fleming said. “The particulars may vary, but there are always two constants: the authors claims to be hindered from handling their money themselves because of some crisis, such as the overthrow of a foreign government or an official. Second, the amounts of money mentioned are usually large. Consumers should never respond to any such offers and certainly never give out any information, such as a bank account number, to any solicitor. These con artists won't be depositing any money into your account; instead, they will drain every penny they can get from it.”

“The Department of Banking has continually advised consumers, businesses and financial institutions to remain vigilant about the risks posed from these international schemes,” Burke said. “Although we don’t really know the total volume of communications that are mailed, faxed or even e-mailed to intended victims, it is estimated that worldwide some 10,000 solicitations are generated weekly. So, don’t be fooled; treat these scam artists no differently than you would some stranger stopping you on the street and asking for your bank account number or asking you to take part in something you know is morally wrong, and surely illegal.”

The letters give detailed explanations about why the money needs to be transferred and request sensitive information from the business, including bank account numbers. The businesses are asked not to tell anyone about the transaction; the con artists operating abroad can then plunder the business’s bank accounts.

See also Department of Banking Web page on fraudulent mail business proposals.