Quincyan swindled by Nigerian scam artist

Posted Saturday, August 16, 2003 by Webmaster

By Rodney Hart
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Jeff Snyder admits he feels foolish about being hoodwinked out of $6,500 by a Nigerian scam artist.

But he doesn’t feel he should bear the burden of being swindled alone, and he wants to warn others about the dangers of selling items over the Internet to people they don’t know.

“I was not aware these Nigerian scams were such a big deal,” Synder said. “I do now.”

In January, Snyder put an ad in several Internet classified advertising sites to sell an all-terrain vehicle. Snyder, 25, said he was laid off from his job and needed money to pay off bills and a car loan.

Snyder said he received a call from a man identifying himself as Yinso Towin from Nigeria. Towin offered to pay him $3,300 for the ATV, but said he would send a $6,500 cashier’s check.

Towin instructed Snyder to wire the difference — $2,900 — to an address in Nigeria.

“He said he needed it to pay for the shipping and because he owed money to another person,” Sndyer said.

Snyder received the check and brought it to First Bankers Trust at 24th and State, where he had a checking account. Snyder said he asked a bank official to verify the check was good.

Snyder said a bank employee called J.P. Morgan Chase Bank in Buffalo, N.Y., to verify the check. It had a legitimate routing number, and the bank employee was told the check was good.

Snyder cashed the check and wired the money to Nigeria. The rest he spent on credit card bills and finishing his car payment.

But a few days later, Snyder says Towin called him and said the person he was buying the ATV for had died, and asked if he would buy the ATV back.

“I was going to send him $500 and buy it back, but that’s when the bank called,” Snyder said.

The bank informed him eight days after he cashed the check it was counterfeit, and that Snyder owed First Bankers Trust $6,500.

“I didn’t have the money,” Snyder said. “I was laid off. I offered to pay them back at $100 a month, but the lowest they would go was $200 a month.”

Snyder said the bank froze and liquidated Snyder’s checking account, which had $1,600. The bank sued Snyder for $4,896, which included service fees.

Snyder said he contacted local attorney Dennis Woodworth, who advised him to “sit tight.” Snyder has an initial court appearance Monday.

Steve Siebers, who works for the Quincy law firm that represents First Bankers Trust, said he and the bank had no comment about the case.

Snyder said he was told by Quincy Police Department investigators the Internet scams are common. He also called the U.S. Secret Service office, who told him the scam artists use cell phones and untraceable e-mail accounts to conduct the scams.

He thinks the $6,500 should be split three ways, between himself, First Bankers Trust and the Buffalo bank, but he takes partial blame.

“I shouldn’t have even attempted to fool with it. Anybody else out there, I would tell them to just not accept any checks from Nigeria.”

Research on the Internet (www.scamvictimsunited.com is a good source) shows Nigerian scams are common. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon recently warned residents to be skeptical of any offers from Africa offering to pay by cashier’s check.

“Even if your bank initially accepts the check, this is no guarantee of authenticity,” Nixon said. “If the check turns out to be counterfeit, you will be held responsible for repaying the money.”

Snyder recently started back to work, so he feels a little better about his financial situation. And he has some final words of advice to anybody who comes into contact with possible Internet fraud.

“If I sell my ATV, cash only,” he said.

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