Sevierville couple targeted in new version of 'Nigerian email scam'

SEVIERVILLE (WATE) - One of the country's longest running scams is taking on a new twist. The Nigerian letter scam is basically a fund-transfer fraud that's now reaching people by email and the scammers personalize the letter. If you take the bait, you could lose it all.

Scam letters are nothing new, especially the ones that say a great hero in our country has died and left you a pile of money. The con artist then offers to transfer that ton of cash into your bank account. In this case, the scammer got personal and wrote that the person who died was a relative of the intended victim, who has the same last name.

Vernice and Ted Berry have been trying to determine whether an email they received in late October could be the real thing. It came from a guy calling himself Gerald Manel, a financial manager. He wrote that one of Ted Berry's relatives recently died.

"My name is Gerald Manel, a portfolio manager to Edward Berry your late relative," read the email. "After countless attempts to locate any of his relatives, I am glad to have found you."

The letter says Edward Berry's unclaimed account is valued at $1.7 million and will be confiscated if not claimed. Vernice Berry says when she saw the amount, she could just picture a Cadillac Escalade in her garage.

Through email, the Berrys filled out an investment certificate and then they received a deposit slip. The scammers must have figured they had them hooked.

"You are required to forward below documents to facilitate the release of $1,750,857 to you as the legal beneficiary," read another email.

Vernice Berry said she checked to see if Financial Reserve Credit Union was the real thing.

"We did investigate. We got on their website and they do really exist," she said.

All along, they both said they had a funny feeling. Could Edward Berry really be Ted's relative?

"I don't know Edward Berry. I may have a lot of lost relatives, but I don't know if that is one of them," he said.

The Berrys said they're weren't born yesterday and were smart enough not to disclose bank or credit information to this so-called portfolio director Gerald Manel.

"They could probably rip us off for a lot of money.  Maybe send us a check that we would cash, then we'd have to send back some to them. That would be a bad check, plus we would be out what we sent to them," said Vernice Berry.

If you receive a letter from a foreign country asking you to send personal or banking information, do not reply. Ignore people representing themselves as a foreign government or some official asking for your help in placing large sums of money in an overseas bank account. Be leery when strangers are eager to place large amounts of money at your disposal.

"If they could get into our financial information, they could strip us of everything we have saved for," said Vernice Berry.

"We don't want anybody else to fall for this same thing," said Ted Berry.

Cyber crime is a very lucrative business for internet con artists, and this is why scams are so prevalent across the web. The criminals will go to unbelievable measures to stage the scam, like saying a relative with your last name has passed on and you could inherit his or her $2 million estate.

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