The owner of the Alpine Country Store received an appealing - if not illegal - offer in the mail this past weekend.
A man, claiming to be a Nigerian government official, offered to deposit $21.5 million in the Hayden store’s bank account. All the while, this ne’er-do-well really intended to make off with all the store’s money.
Good thing the store owner didn’t bite. It seems the con man didn’t realize who he was dealing with: Kootenai County Sheriff Pierce Clegg.
“It was kind of ironic,” Clegg said Monday of the scam letter he received at the store and RV park he owns on U.S. Highway 95.
The Nigerian scam has made its way around Idaho and the rest of the world - in one form or another - over the last several years.
It works basically like this: Business owners receive a letter supposedly from a Nigerian doctor or prince or chief. In Clegg’s case, it was Dr. Shamsudeen Katsina.
“Some midlevel industry or government official has all these millions of dollars he just doesn’t know what to do with,” said Brett DeLang, chief of the Idaho attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division. “And he’d like to funnel them out of the country with your help. But what they’re trying to do is get your bank account number and siphon off all the money in your account.”
While asking the local business for account and business information, the letter soothes, “Rest assured that this transaction is 100 percent risk free.”
The scam artists don’t seem terribly particular about whom they try to dupe.
Clegg is in good company. In September, the Nigerians sent a nearly identical letter to the director of Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, according to The London Times.
DeLang figures just about every business in Idaho has been sent one of these letters. “Fortunately Idahoans have enough good common sense it appears they haven’t been taken in by this,” he said.
Not so in other areas.
In October, the U.S. Postal Service named this scam one of the top five most popular ways to fleece Americans.
“It’s simply appealing to your greed,” DeLang said. “It’s a cliche, but if it sounds too good to be true it is - and it certainly applies in this case.”