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Crime Writer Spotlight - Sandra Nikolai

My guest blogger today is mystery author Sandra Nikolai. Her novels teem with deception and murder. Fun in fiction, but the real-life trickery she experienced can have serious consequences.

Sandra, tell us about your personal experience with the Nigerian letter scam.

My retired aunt loves exchanging e-mails with friends. One day an unusual message popped up in her inbox. It was from a Nigerian doctor and looked quite authentic. The doctor asked for her help in retrieving millions of dollars illegally trapped in a bank account overseas. The account was in the name of his terminally ill patient—a woman who apparently had been good friends with my aunt years ago. The doctor requested a preliminary deposit to cover expenses so the deal could proceed. He stated that my aunt would be compensated for her trouble with 10% of the sum held in the overseas bank account.

How did your aunt deal with it?

She couldn’t recall the woman but figured her memory wasn’t what it used to be. Since my aunt devotes a lot of time to volunteer work, she wasn’t about to let an old friend down. She was preparing to send the doctor the details of her bank account and credit card by return e-mail when I happened to call. After she told me about her “old friend,” I explained that the money doesn’t exist and put a stop to the scam immediately.

Sandra did exactly the right thing, and her aunt is lucky to have talked to her.
This scam existed in various forms for centuries. The Spanish Prisoner, 419 Fraud, and the Nigerian letter scam are variations of the same scam. All involve an upfront payment with the promise of a large commission in return. Victims never see their money again.

Red flags:

  • Unsolicited requests for money. If you didn’t initiate contact with someone, don’t respond.
  • Asking for your bank details. Never divulge your bank information to anyone. At best, you will never see your money again. Worst case, they will also steal your identity.
  • A sense of urgency. This is designed to make you act before you have time to think.

Look for False Impressions, Sandra Nikolai’s upcoming novel (Spring 2012), in which ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott become prime suspects in the murder of Megan’s husband and his mistress. Visit Sandra at: or follow her blogSandra is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada and Capital Crime Writers.

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