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What the U.S. Government Will Do For You If You Get Ripped Off

Mostly not a lot.

Which is not to say that they are not concerned, but you will never see your money again. The State Department is pretty concerned about this, and has been working with the G8 since 1996 to come up with a solution. (The G8 is an informal group of eight countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—plus the European Union.) So far, a total of 39 nations have complained to the Nigerian government about it. Nigeria is working to end this, but they currently have a lot on their minds, and there seems to be a lot of foot-dragging. The U.S. government suspects that to at least some extent, the Nigerian government may be involved.

In 1998, Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts proposed and managed to get a bill passed ("Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud Prevention Act of 1998"), which doesn't really do much except acknowledge that this is a problem and that people ought to know about it. Still, it's a step in the right direction. You can check out the text of the bill here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:h.r.3916:.

The Secret Service has a special branch (cleverly code-named "Operation 419") that receives more than 100 phone calls and five hundred pieces of mail every day. If you've been a victim, you can add to that load by emailing them at 419.fcd@usss.treas.gov. If you haven't lost any money, put "No financial loss—for your database" in the subject line. Make sure to include the full headers. If you have lost money to this scam, put "Financial loss" in the subject line.

You can also call your local FBI field office, but chances are they're not going to be terribly interested except from a statistical point of view. Especially if you've suffered no financial loss.

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