Were you recently notified that you were the winner of the Canadian lottery? Or perhaps you received a secret communiqué from a former official of the Nigerian government asking for your assistance discretely moving money out of his country. Were you surprised by your luck? As discussed in a recent Los Angeles Times article, perhaps you have become a victim of bad luck.
These scams are some of the latest variants of a confidence game commonly known as the Spanish Prisoner scam, in which the victim is informed that a very wealthy individual was wrongly imprisoned under a false name in a Spanish prison. The victim is told that if he or she were willing to help the prisoner in his greatest time of need, the victim will be richly rewarded after the prisoner is released. Revealing the name of the wealthy prisoner will most likely result in potentially catastrophic consequences, however, and so the victim is forced to rely on his agent—the confidence artist. The victim then pays the con artist money which is supposed to be used to free the prisoner but instead only helps the con artist.
The recent Los Angeles Times article also included the latest variants of the age-old confidence game, including one scam where potential victims are notified that they are named beneficiaries under the last will and testament of the famed Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. While such a claim may sound ludicrous to many people, the writers were able to find one individual who considered the pitch legitimate; a struggling tenor and had previously met Mr. Pavarotti at a musical event. For a mere $800 transfer fee, the victim could receive his bequest under Mr. Pavarotti’s will.