As a former federal prosecutor, I often received telephone inquiries from average folks seeking information about potential internet scams. Over the years, I have heard about all sorts of fraudulent lotteries, sweepstakes, auctions, advance fee scams, and pyramid schemes. I have prosecuted quite a few of these fraudulent schemes. All these schemes work pretty much the same: the lure of a large prize with a request for a "small" fee.
Now, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, I still frequently receive calls from people who are wanting to know if they "really have just won" the grand prize in an overseas sweepstakes and whether it is okay to send a processing fee to claim their winnings! You can probably guess my response to such callers! Today, I heard about a new variation on an old scam! I fielded a call from a lady who had received an email message indicating that she had just been named the beneficiary in a wealthy English citizen's will. Naturally, she told me that she did not know the deceased! And naturally, she was informed that she merely had to send $1045.00, (a "will registry fee!"), in order to claim her huge bequest! I felt sorry for the caller, but I was glad she called me.
As you know, internet fraud is a major, world-wide problem. Everyone is a potential victim. (Just check your inbox today!) And the problem seems only to be getting worse. According to http://www.spamlosses.com/, the average loss from such internet fraud scams is about $1,500.00. As I told today's caller, even if only one out of every 1000 email targets bites the hook and sends money, that is still a very profitable criminal enterprize!
So, today's message, whether you call me on the telephone, or whether you simply read this post, is that, just like your momma told you, in life, you almost never get something for nothing! And that English baron who named you as beneficiary in his will is sort of like the Easter bunny--he seems to hop around pretty good, but he really doesn't exist!