Nurse loses $400,000 to Nigerian email scammers

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
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@gcluley

Nigeria t-shirt

If you’ve got an email account then chances are that you’ve received one of those emails. You know the kind.

“Dear friend.. blah blah blah.. tragic situation.. rhubarb rhubarb.. need to move umpteen million dollars.. yada yada.. please contact us as soon as possible..”

Most people, I suspect, simply delete them and think nothing more of it. But millions of the messages (known as 419 scams after the relevant section of the Nigerian penal code from where many originate) are sent every day because occasionally they manage to hook a victim.

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Take for instance the astonishing story of Janella Spears from Sweet Home, Oregon.

Spears, a registered nurse and reverend, was stung over the course of two years for a grand total of $400,000, in the mistaken belief that she would receive over $20 million supposedly left by her long-lost grandfather after his death.

When Spears began to suspect that something amiss was afoot with the transaction she received letters (all faked) from the likes of President George W Bush, FBI Director Robert Mueller and the president of Nigeria, all urging her to continue to send funds to prevent the fortune falling in the hands of terrorists.

Obsessed with getting her hands on the non-existent money, Spears mortgaged her house, took out loans on her car, and emptied her husband’s retirement savings.

As I’ve described before, these con-tricks works because the criminals exploit the gullibility of vulnerable members of our society.

You may not fall for a trick like this – but can you be so sure that your Uncle Albert or your grandmother would be as clued-up as you?


Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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