It did not take long for the scam to become a running joke. You know, the one where someone claiming to be a prince, often from Nigeria, would email and claim riches awaited you but to claim them, you would have to send over some money yourself.
While we all got a good laugh over them, it's important to remember the scam would not have existed if there weren't others who fell for it. We don't know exactly how many people were duped nor how much money was lost, but you have to figure a good amount for both.
Sadly for many people who were scammed, the money they lost is long gone. However that is not the case for everyone, as one man from Kansas recently found out.
He was able to get a refund
It would have been understandable to be skeptical over a letter claiming to be from the Attorney General offering help in claiming a refund from a Nigerian Prince Scam. When you really think about it, something like that is along the lines of they got into this mess in the first place.
But in this case it would have been wise to follow up on it. Wichita resident Fred Haines did exactly that, and 10 years after being scammed out of $110,000, he got the money back.
It wasn't quite the $64 million he was expecting a decade ago, but it was better than nothing. After mortgaging his house three times thinking he was going to be rich, it had to feel at least a little good.
But how did this happen?
You may be thinking that if someone was careless enough to fall victim to one of the oldest scams in the book they deserve to lose their money, but the U.S. Government felt differently.
In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with Western Union, in which the latter agreed to pay $586 million into a fund earmarked for repaying victims in the U.S. and Canada. In essence, they were admitting to looking the other way while some of its employees helped scammers use their service for money laundering and fraud.
The problem with that, as Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt learned, was that there was not a great record of people who fell victim to the scam. If a complaint was never filed, how were they to know?
So Kansas, like other states, sent out a press release. The hope was that people would be alerted to the fact that they could recoup their losses, but even still that may not have been enough.
So Schmidt requested that Western Union provide him with a list of all Kansas residents who had wired large sums or multiple smaller sums to specific high-risk countries and, after receiving it in March, sent out his letter.
A total of 344 scam victims responded to the letter, with them filing refund claims that totaled more than $1.7 million.
The deadline to file has since passed
If you are reading this and are thinking about how you were scammed and want a refund, sorry but it is too late. The deadline to file for a refund was May 31.
But for people who may have forgotten to file or have not fallen victim to the scam, it's all another good reminder to be wary of any offer that promises you riches in return for your money first. Chances are if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Speaking of online problems, make sure you avoid being tracked
Thankfully, there are a number of tools out there that can help you boost your online privacy. From tweaking your browser settings to opting out of ad tracking altogether, here are various ways you can fight back.