A French woman has been left penniless after 419 scammers based in the West African nation of Ivory Coast stole all the money she worked for all her life, French newspaper Var-Matin reported today in its digital edition.
Edwige Grange, a resident of the Var province in southeastern France, thought she was dealing with the real business people who promised her five million USD, and asked her to start depositing money every month during a period of three months, which she did until she found herself against the wall.
Every day cyber-criminals, identified by international police as Nigerian citizens, send thousands of emails to unknown people, promising them billions of US dollars in the form of lucrative investments or money left by a dead person or dying people looking for someone to donate their fortune. The scam is called 419 scam.
This is exactly the kind of trap Grange fell into.
Var-Matin said: “The story begins in October. On the social network Facebook, a man named Jean-Michel Gretin will contact Grange. In a few weeks, they sympathise and frequently discuss together. The man said to be 70-year-old, from Nice and currently hospitalised in a clinic in Canada.
“Seriously ill, he says he has no offspring or friends, to donate his fortune estimated at five million USD. He promises the gift of the cocoa plantation owned in Ivory Coast. Except that it is a fake Facebook account managed by an organised gang is.”
She said the man looked serious and sincere and she never thought a 70-year-old could be dishonest.
“But I let myself soften,” she told the newspaper.
Then the misery began.
“He asked me for my phone number and told me that his friends would contact me soon. For once, he did not lie. Two days later, a man living in Abidjan asked him to send cash money through Western Union, to unlock the wealth of his supposed friend sick. Grange sent 2000 euros, including her banking details.”
And the payment went on and on until she paid about 14 566 euros, until nothing, and until she contacted Ivory Coast and French Police who told her that she has been swindled out of her money.
And that money, she said, was her savings for eight good years.
With recession currently tearing the Eurozone apart, Grange might be feeling like digging a hole and disappearing inside of that hole, while the people who took her money may be feeling like they are somewhere between heaven and moon.
Cyber-crime has done of lot of damage to businesses, government, households and individuals. Police and experts advise people not to reply to e-mails seen as suspicious as they may be leading them into the thieves’ den.
Cyber crime costs 27 billion GBP a year to the UK economy, according to a government report published in 2011. This includes 21 billion of costs to businesses, 2.2 billion to government and 3.1billion to citizens.
Worldwide, the figure is much higher. Symantec Corp said in 2011 that more than one million people a day fall victim to cyber crime, with a cost calculated at 114 billion USD annually.
Photo by Hervé Lillini, courtesy of Var-Matin. Edwige Grange, the new victim of Nigeria’s 419 scam.