The Forced Nigerian Scam.

Someone tells you he put money in your bank account by mistake and he wants you to pay him back his money. After you write him a check, a check supposedly deposited in your bank account bounces.

What you should do:

First step

1a. Do not pay him back.

1b. Have him tell you his address and phone number but you do not give him your address or phone number. If he refuses to answer any of your questions then hang up. You do not have to answer any of his questions.

1c. Tell him to contact the bank and have the bank fix any mistake but do not give him your bank account number or social security number or any other information about yourself. Do not even give him the name of the bank.

1d. If you wish to, you can tell him to send or give you proof that the money went into your bank account. He has to come up with all the details himself. Do not give him any information such as your bank account number. He may wonder how he can send you information if he doesn't know your address. The answer is that if he knew enough to contact you he should already have your address.

Second step

2a. Contact your bank to find out whether an unknown deposit was actually made to your account. But don't make long distance or roaming phone calls.

2b. If you do see a deposit that you are not sure about, then write to your bank saying you don't know where that deposit came from and asking the bank to send you a description of what that deposit consisted of (cash, checks, banks the checks are from, amounts, etc.). Don't make a dispute about it yet.

2c. After you know for sure money was put into your account by mistake, write a letter of dispute in the same fashion as you would write to the bank if the bank took money out by mistake or overcharged you for something.

2d. It is possible that around this time the bank will find a mistake and will fix it without further involvement from you.

Third step

3a. You should not give the person permission to take money from your account. The removal of the money from the account should be in the form of "undoing" the deposit or "correcting an error". Typically such a correction would be labeled "debit memo" instead of "withdrawal".

3b. It is possible that the bank officer may tell you to send the person a check, saying it is the same thing as having the bank undo the deposit. Don't do this. You should turn around and tell the bank to correct the mistake without your signing anything. It is not the same thing. If you write a check and a check that was deposited bounces then you are out the money. If the bank "undoes" the deposit, then a bounced check that was deposited is not your problem.

3c. The bank does not have the right to charge you any fees for doing the work instead of your writing a check. The bank should charge the other person if any fees are needed.

3d. Just because a month has passed does not mean that a check won't bounce. Just because a check is from a bank or is certified or has an embossed seal does not mean it will not bounce.

Moral of the story:

If you see extra money in your bank account, don't ignore it and don't spend it.


Q:  What if you see both a deposit and a withdrawal you did not make on your bank statement and no explanation was sent to you first?

A:  Start by writing a letter to the bank disputing the withdrawal only. Do not say what you think happened. Do not mention the unknown deposit in the withdrawal dispute letter. Let the bank explain it to you in their own words first. Wait until you get a firm answer regarding the withdrawal before discussing the deposit. Write again and again until you get an answer in writing.

What will probably happen is that the bank will undo the deposit at about the same time it explains the withdrawal in question.

Other Questions

Q: What is the "regular" Nigerian scam?

A: Someone tells you you won a prize or someone purchases something from you but the check he gives you is for too much money. He then tells you to send him back the change. Later the check he gave you bounces and now you are out the total amount of money you sent back to him.

Q: Why is it called the Nigerian scam?

A: It was first noticed with many instances coming from Nigeria.

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