A Nigerian Scam Could Be A Legitimate Transaction

We’ve all gotten our share of emails from Nigerian prince’s promising us money for various things. I’m pretty sure I’ve won a lottery in Nigeria more than once and my friends have been kidnapped several times and desperately needed money.

For the most part, legitimate business deals and “Nigeria” don’t go well together. So I’ll start off my story with an admission. I sent $1,000 to a man in Nigeria yesterday as part of a business transaction. I went to a Western Union and had the money sent to a man I had never met but whom I emailed back and forth for the past week.

If you think I’m crazy, you are not alone. While I told a few people that I sent money and was just waiting for him to send over the goods, in reality I’m not one to fall for scams. I wanted to title this post “How To Scam a Nigerian Prince” or “How Not to Get Scammed By a Nigerian Prince” the truth is that those are misleading, while the actual story has plenty of twists and turns to keep your attention.

I’ve been looking to acquire a new website, so every once in awhile I search Flippa for quality sites that aren’t too expensive. I rarely find anything, and when I do, most are either out of my price range in a few days or unrelated to the personal finance niche that I’m most interested in.

Well this time I found one I liked, much to my surprise. It looked like a quality site for a decent price, and while the price was not cheap, I was surprised that nobody else had bid yet. So I quickly messaged the owner asking if I could pay $1,000 for his site if I bought it now rather than waiting for the bidding to end in a week.

After a few emails back and forth, we agreed on a price and since these transactions with an online partner require some trust, I offered for him to call me just so we could chat and get comfortable with each other.

My phone rang, I picked up, and a man from Nigeria was on the other line. That as my first red flag. A few things ran through my mind:

1. Wow, that was unexpected, I just assumed he was American from his emails.
2. This is obviously a scam and there’s no way I am sending him any money

I immediately made it clear that I wouldn’t be playing any games and that I would need the site to be completely in my hands before I released any money. He was ok with it, so I sent him a list of steps that would needed to be complete.

First, he needed to transfer the hosting to my account.

We ran into our first problem. His company was going to charge him $100 even though my company would do it for free. So I offered for my company to do it. But this guy said that his company wouldn’t allow it, so he asked me to send $100 via Western Union to him to cover the expenses. Another red flag.

He couldn’t get the full amount out of me, so he would try and get $100, right? Well I was having none of it.

I was determined not to get scammed. If the deal broke down, I was ok with it, I don’t mind wasting an hour on a deal, but I was not willing to risk any money on something that sounded to sketchy.

He agreed to pay for it and suddenly I thought that this could be a legitimate deal. I had daily conversations with the seller about why he wanted to sell (he was starting a new site and needed money to pay his developer), but was still suspicious because this is the oldest line in the book. He sent me a half-built site, but hey, if there’s no risk, why not keep going?

A few days later, he got the hosting transfer taken care of and all that’s left was the domain transfer and the money aspect. He got a friend in Texas who has a legitimate online presence to vouch for him, and I offered to send her money and she could send it to him. That’s something I could be comfortable with, right?

Well, that wasn’t an option, because as the seller put it, “her horses got stolen and she had to pay the FBI to get them back.” Um, what? This is just getting weird.

Then I kept thinking that if I took control of the site, there was no way for him to scam me, so really there wasn’t much to be afraid of, right? Still, I was hesitant.

On Friday, I got full control of everything. The Facebook page, the Twitter account, as well as the entire site and login details. After changing the passwords, I went over to my local supermarket to make the Western Union transfer, seeing as I didn’t have any no foreign transaction fee credit cards.

I was denied because I tried to do it over the phone (at the Western Union kiosk), even though I had already given my credit card information (if you’re looking for a good one, read this chase freedom review). I ran out of time on Friday, so I had to tell him that it would have to wait until Sunday. Now he starts to worry that I’m going to scam him! I have his site, I owe him $1,000, and he has no way to get his site back. I had no plan to do that, but I thought it might be funny to be the only man in America to scam someone in Nigeria.

Sunday came, and I went to the first location Western Union told me could do it. Fail, the store was closed. Next, I went to rite-aid. Fail again, their system was down. I told the seller what was happening and now he gets really nervous. Was I just messing with him? Why was I delaying?

I went to a third location, but their system was also down! Now this was starting to waste my Sunday, so I told him I would try one more store before giving up for the day and trying again at a bank on Monday.

I got to the gas station, gave them my information, and ran into a little trouble. I could only send $500 via debit, so I’d have to get cash. Luckily, there was an ATM in my network across the street so I walked over and tried to withdraw $500. Fail, the ATM was “temporarily unavailable.” Finally I found one that worked, got my money and sent off my second Western Union transfer.

I got home, spoke to the seller again, and he thanked me for my cooperation. Then, he sent me the website he had built, justretweet.com. He had been telling the truth! They had just launched, had a bunch of new users, and I was stunned.

So, this guy had been telling the truth all along. While at the beginning it certainly looked like a scam and there were plenty of red flags, this was a very legitimate transaction and the only weird thing about it was that that seller lived in Nigeria.

Readers, did I handle the situation properly to avoid the possibility of getting scammed? Or should I have avoided the whole situation as soon as I heard where he was from?

22 Responses to A Nigerian Scam Could Be A Legitimate Transaction

  1. Hope it all works out. Personally, I would have most likely been scared off way earlier in the process, but if you’re more tolerant of all the risk (and the work) involved, you stand to do pretty well.

    Good luck and please follow up with how things turned out.

  2. Gail Gardner says:

    Good thing for the seller that he knows me and I know a linkbait title when I see one. You scared him half to death.

    Yes, someone lured the horses into a yard and ran them through a fence and they got impounded by the county and we had to pay $795 plus transport to get them back, but there was no FBI – only the county – and thankfully they didn’t end up on a truck bound for the killer plant in Mexico which is the usual end for horses that disappear.

    I am just happy the transfer was completed and you got the entire site and he finally got his money and all is well.

    Another lesson came out of this for anyone who hires someone to build a Web site or install their blog: make sure they give you your own C-Panel access even if you don’t know what to do with it yet.

    I am really surprised that so many people automatically distrust anyone from Nigeria. There are con artists EVERYWHERE and it is illogical to believe that EVERYONE who happens to live in Nigeria is a scammer.

    I work with bloggers all over the world and I’m sure there are just as many con artists in the U.S. or Australia as there are in Nigeria or anywhere else.

    • Daniel says:

      @Gail Gardner, yes, the c-panel lesson is definitely a good one. I do it for a different reason but transferring sites is a breeze!

      I think some of the mistrust stems from not being able to set up escrow or make payments to Nigeria. Why? Probably because there is a lot of scamming going on there. If there was some protection with my transfer, I would have been much more willing to go through with it.

  3. Gail Gardner says:

    Hi Daniel,

    I’m sure the fame of the Nigerian prince scam is what led to PayPal refusing to send money there and Western Union not allowing us to send money online to Nigeria or even – as you found out the hard way – from many of their physical locations.

    No doubt they are trying to protect people who would otherwise be scammed, but in doing so they have made doing business for honest people who happen to live in Nigeria extremely challenging.

    It is unfortunate that there are so many con artists in the world scamming people. If you really think about it, though, we trust people all the time and just don’t realize it.

    How do we know what the gas station attendant does with our credit card when we prepay? One of the managers I worked with at IBM had several $40 or $50 charges made on his because someone who worked there ran it several times through a manual machine and then put them through over a few weeks. If he hadn’t checked his statements he would never have known. Who knows if whoever did that doesn’t still work there?

    We only trust credit cards because usually our losses are limited to $50, but I bet a lot of charges have gone through that never got caught.

    I know someone who had multiple ATM charges made against the card he had in his wallet when the charges were run. His bank credited his account because there were multiple claims against that particular ATM for the same problem. If there hadn’t been he might have just been out 100s of dollars. Apparently there are now devices that can capture your credit or debit card information AND your pin number when you use an ATM in a convenience store.

    Some people are afraid to buy online and just today I read a post at PaySimple.com about someone having qualms about paying using a mobile system. Those two methods are no more dangerous than handing your credit card to the wait staff at restaurants or across the counter anywhere.

    We trust them not to overcharge us and we trust when we order something and have to pay in advance – online or in a store – that we will get what we paid for. There always has to be trust somewhere.

    If the seller had not trusted you there would be no way for the sale to have gone through – and when sending payment was delayed several times I’m sure he had his fears, too.

    That is why freelancer.com can be a good way to hire someone. The buyer deposits funds so you know they have them and releases them in increments as the work is completed so they aren’t paying for what they won’t end up getting.

    I wonder if Flippa doesn’t do something similar if you sell through them? If they do, maybe they should offer a “buy it now” option like eBay does and handle the transaction for you. If not IF the Web site owner has separate C-Panel access a trusted third party could facilitate transfers for the buyer and seller. Then all you need is someone you both trust to assist with the transfer of both the site and the funds.

    • Daniel says:

      @Gail Gardner, Yah I mean I’m glad I went through with it and the more we spoke the more I realized it was legitimate, but at the same time if I could have made a paypal payment, I would have been much more likely to pay half after the hosting transfer and half after the entire thing. With no protection, things get a little more murky.

  4. Just wait for your new website to give you a virus and literally explode your computer!

    Haha, just kidding. Congratulations on getting a new site and good luck! Sounds like a big mess, but all seems legit in the end. And good job not screwing him over. Way to have a strong sense of integrity

    • Daniel says:

      @Kevin @ Thousandaire.com, ha, I don’t think it’s hard to have that type of integrity when I’m just trying to protect myself. It was never about the price, all about protecting myself. Plus, who wants to have that on their conscience?

  5. valentine belonwu says:

    Hi Daniel,

    You freaked me when I saw your title of this post on twitter :)
    Actually a lot of people believe that everybody in Nigeria were the
    same thieves but they are wrong!

    I remembered last year when I contacted someone online from the
    Philippines – a website designer who I contacted to design a website for
    me. He charged me $650 to do the job and he asked me for front payment
    of $300 which I sent to him. Within a week he requested his
    balance of $350 from me which I sent too because I saw the job he did
    for me, but he never released any details until I finished his payment.

    I paid him and the white guy scammed me my hard earned money and closed
    down the site because he said he was once scammed by a Nigeria, I was
    so emotional, but still I haven’t given up when it comes to online
    business because that’s where I make my living.

    I am glad we finally become a mutual friend with you and this article
    has a great message to pass to others.

    Thanks,
    Valentine Belonwu, founder JustRetweet.com

  6. Evan says:

    Where is the paragraph about convincing your risk-resistant partner that this was fine?

  7. Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity says:

    Don’t you hate it when you really want to get something done, and it seems that something is trying to steer you away from it by making it really difficult to do? That really sounds like a headache and a half to go through, but at least the end result was you both getting what you wanted.

  8. krantcents says:

    I usually avoid situations where I even have a chance of getting scammed. Why take the risk?

  9. wow – crazy find. So, do we get to know what the site is? :) Or is it a secret? I don’t know if I would have gone through that whole deal… but maybe that’s why you are going to bring in the big bucks.

    • Daniel says:

      @20’s Finances, the site itself isn’t important, but it was a good price for the type of sites we’re looking for, which is in low supply. If there were other options, we’d be happy to pay a premium for a deal with an American, but there are so few sites for sale out there!

  10. ira says:

    I still don’t get the horses thing – why did the issue of the horses being stolen prevent the transfer of the money through Texas?

    Ira

    • Daniel says:

      @ira, To make the payment in a timely way, she would have needed to pay the $1,000 before the money I transferred her via reached her bank account. The horses gave her an unexpected expenses and probably didn’t leave enough in her checking account.

  11. Jerry says:

    I would’ve been nervous, too. When you’re not dealing face to face, there’s no insurance you’re not going to get scammed one way or another. But, it makes for a great story! It might lead others to look at Nigerians in a better light, too.

  12. 101 Centavos says:

    Glad it turned OK. Just the mere act of buying a website takes some huevos, at least to my blog-noob’s eyes.

  13. Glad it turned out OK as well! This was a hilarious story and can’t believe I missed out on it before!

  14. Vernessa Taylor says:

    Hi Daniel,

    Your headline pulled me over here, specifically because I was trying to find Valentine’s FaceBook page URL through Google, so “Nigeria” was on my mind.

    Sad to say, those Nigerian scams have cast a wedge between legitimate business persons from the motherland and their potential customers, investors, and even possible friends. Happily, I’ve met some great folk from Nigeria over the past 18 months, which has done much to restore my personal comfort level.

    As I read your story, I could fully feel your hesitation but desire to operate in good faith. (I respect your position of knowing when to fold ’em, too!)

    I didn’t know you were actually talking about “Valentine” until I got to the part where the lady in Texas had her horses stolen. Boy, did I laugh! (I was privy to that saga as it unfolded and knew Gail was working with Mr JustRetweet.)

    Man, what a tale. Thanks for sharing it with us and I’m glad you concluded the sale so Valentine could keep on developing JustRetweet.com.

    • Valentine Belonwu says:

      @Vernessa Taylor,
      Am glad you commented here. actually Daniel did a great work with the help of Gail who made everything goes well.

      I still believe this story will change some bad thought about Nigeria

  15. Maazi Chike Ogbuefi says:

    Hmmm… Good one. Nigeria have been put on a bad light times without number. This will help prove some pessimists wrong. Good deal, tho.

    Belonwu, congrats and well done. Integrity pays. Ndị be anyị sị na ezi afa ka ego. Jide ka i ji na nke i ji amaka. Deeme.

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