Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Elderly man busted in ‘Nigerian Prince’ email scam

[dropcap][/dropcap]iBy Jim Hagerty

SLIDELL, La. — An elderly man faces more than 200 charges for his role in an email scam that promises recipients $1 million from a Nigerian prince.

Authorities say Michael Neu, 67, of Slidell, Louisiana, was a middleman in the scam, and that he bilked people out of thousands of dollars. He was arrested after an 18-month investigation and faces 269 counts of wire fraud and a single count of money laundering.

Known colloquially as the “Nigerian Prince” scam, it has been around since the 1970s. Email recipients are told they can cash in on a $1 million inheritance. All they must do in exchange is provide the sender with their bank account information so funds can be “deposited.”Instead of making deposits, the sender uses the information to drain the accounts.

Police say Neu participated in a similar operation, taking a cut and wiring the rest to co-conspirators in Nigeria.

Experts say the Nigerian Prince scam is a lot like many others. Scammers search for vulnerable victims to fall for too-good-to-be-true offers before they realize they’ve been duped. And because so many of the people who operate the scams are in other countries, they’re often never caught. Even when authorities are able to shut down an operation, a new one pops up right behind it.  According to a longtime Rockford consumer advocate, there is one sure way to keep cyber criminals in check.

“The more we inform consumers on scam tactics, what to look for and how to avoid them, the better chance we have to stop fraudsters in their tracks,” said Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.

Horton’s office handled several complaints last year from people who fell prey. Some of the scams his staff dealt with even made the list of the BBB’s Top 10 Scams of 2017. That list includes the Sweepstakes and Lottery scam, which is like the Nigerian Prince scam in that email recipients are told they’ve won money; Can You Hear Me Now scam, where people are tricked into saying “yes” to financial transactions; and a combination of other email phishing and text-messaging scams aimed at personal banking information.

The Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau can be reached at 815-963-2226.

Slidell is 33 miles northeast of New Orleans. R.

–with Associated Press reports

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