On Crime Tracker tonight: the Nigerian email Scam. If you get email, you've seen them: urgent letters promising you untold riches if you would only send a certain amount of money overseas upfront.
It's an obvious swindle, yet criminals succeed with this con all over the world. The e-mails come out of the blue: "If you're getting e-mails from people you don't know, it's best not to open them at all," said Derek Verdeyen of the U.S. Secret Service.
Memphis-based Special Agent-in-Charge Verdeyen works for the Secret Service which investigates financial crimes such as the Nigerian E-mail Scam.
"I think they prey upon victims greed and ignorance. Obviously, I've always been told if something is too good to be true, then it usually is. That's exactly the case her," Vereyden. "We discovered an abandoned sum of 14 million 500 thousand dollars."
Some alert you to an unclaimed money that could be yours for money upfront.
"I and other officials in may department have agreed to make business with you and release the total amount into your account," he said.
Others prey on your Christianity. "Dear Beloved in Christ...you were nominated to me through divine revelation from God," Vereyden continued.
Another version of the sting has you winning a foreign lottery you never entered. "It's worthwhile to note, the mere fact that these e-mails are going out isn't against the law," Vereyden continued.
The crime happens only when victims send money. Then it gets complicated.
"If you do get one and any money changes hands within the United States, then that may be something you should report to the local Secret Service office.
However, if the money has left the United States and typically they request Western Union wire transfer or money orders but once that money has left the United States it makes it very difficult if not wholly impossible by virtue of the transnational nature of the investigation to lay hands on the criminals," Veryeden advised.
So here's the bottom line: if you get one of the scam emails, the Secret Service says just delete it and you've prevented a crime. If you have sent money, give them a call.