Today’s New York Times reports that a 68-year-old broker stole over $600,000 from elderly clients and then lost most of his loot in an Internet fraud scheme. The broker received an email from someone claiming to represent his distant relative who had died and left him over eight million dollars. The broker took the bait and wired overseas more than $400,000, apparently believing that the money would aid in the release of the inheritance.
Despite the significant publicity devoted to exposing such scams, consumers continue to fall prey to email fraudsters in significant numbers. Reports suggest that 29% of Internet users have been deceived by spam emails. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australians lost $36 million dollars last year to fraudsters claiming affiliations with Nigeria. An intriguing new scam involves fraudsters who set up fake profiles on dating sites, stringing along targets for months before agreeing to meet and then asking for money to help pay for a plane ticket. Some, like the Nigerian High Commission, suggest that the deceived are as guilty as those who ask for money and thus should be subject to arrest as well. That sentiment may not convince many, but in the case of the New York broker who stole his clients’ life savings, the email scam is truly just deserts.