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Woman scammed out of $400,000 pursuing lottery-sized fortune

Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Woman scammed out of $400,000 pursuing lottery-sized fortune

This may well be the mother of all Internet scam cases.

Janella Spears, a reverend and a registered nurse from Sweet Home, Oregon, ended up sending Nigerian fraudsters more than $400,000 when she was promised a multi-million dollar pay out from a lost relative.

When she began to doubt she was sent letters from the FBI Director, the US President and the President of Nigeria. She still thought it was genuine and ignored the pleas of her family and law enforcement officials in the US.

She spoke out to warn others of the scams and told KATU TV that she "doesn't think she's a sucker or an easy mark". The blogs have been ripping her to shreds.

Besides her work as a registered nurse, Spears also teaches CPR and is a reverend who has married many couples. She also communicates with lightning-fast sign language with her hearing-impaired husband.

So how did this otherwise lucid, intelligent woman end up sending nearly half a million dollars to a bunch of con artists running what has to be one of the best-known Internet scams in the world?

Spears fell victim to the "Nigerian scam," which is familiar to almost anyone who has ever had an e-mail account.

The e-mail pitch is familiar to most people by now: a long-lost relative or desperate government official in a war-torn country needs to shuffle some funds around, say $10 million or $20 million, and if you could just help them out for a bit, you get to keep 10 (or 20 or 30) percent for your trouble.

All you need to do is send X-amount of dollars to pay some fees and all that cash will suddenly land in your checking account, putting you on Easy Street. By the way, please send the funds though an untraceable wire service.

By this time, not many people will fall for such an outrageous pitch, and the scam is very well-known. But it persists, and for a reason: every now and then, it works.

Spears received just such an e-mail, promising her that she'd get $20.5 million if she would only help out a long-lost relative — identified in the e-mail as J.B. Spears — with a little money up front. "That's what got me to believe it," Spears said.

It turned out to be a lot of money up front, but it started with just $100.

The scammers ran Spears through the whole program. They said President Bush and FBI Director "Robert Muller" (their spelling) were in on the deal and needed her help.

They sent official-looking documents and certificates from the Bank of Nigeria and even from the United Nations. Her payment was "guaranteed."

Then the amount she would get jumped up to $26.6 million — if she would just send $8,300. Spears sent the money.

More promises and teases of multi-millions followed, with each one dependent on her sending yet more money. Most of the missives were rife with misspellings.

When Spears began to doubt the scam, she got letters from the President of Nigeria, FBI Director Mueller, and President Bush. Terrorists could get the money if she did not help, Bush's letter said. Spears continued to send funds. All the letters were fake, of course.

She wiped out her husband's retirement account, mortgaged the house and took a lien out on the family car. Both were already paid for.

For more than two years, Spears sent tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Everyone she knew, including law enforcement officials, her family and bank officials, told her to stop, that it was all a scam. She persisted.

Spears said she kept sending money because the scammers kept telling her that the next payment would be the last one, that the big money was inbound. Spears said she became obsessed with getting paid.

An undercover investigator who worked on the case said greed helped blind Spears to the reality of the situation, which he called the worst example of the scam he's ever seen.

He also said he has seen people become obsessed with the scam before. They are so desperate to recoup their losses with the big payout, they descend into a vicious cycle of sending money in hopes the false promises will turn out to be real.

Now, Spears has gone public with her story as a warning to others not to fall victim.

She hopes her story will warn others to listen to reason and avoid going down the dark tunnel of obsession that ended up costing her so much.

Spears said it would take her at least three to four years to dig out of the debt she ran up in pursuit of the non-existent pot of Nigerian gold.

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20 comments. Last comment 9 years ago by myturn.
Page 1 of 2
Cash3Addict's avatar - mask
Lawrenceville, GA
United States
Member #67252
November 21, 2008
534 Posts
Posted: December 9, 2008, 1:45 am - IP Logged

Oh my god i recieved the same type of emails from Banks from Nigeria and stuff. They used to fill up my inbox last summer, talking about millions of dollars guaranteed to be mine. all they needed wuz my name adress, phone ss#, blah blah blah....basically were trying to steal my identity and my money. Didnt fall for it because i know a scam when i see one and im a computer wiz!


Its ok to be a hustler, but damn a scammer!!!! Big Smile

Im trying my best to stay in the game.

    s5thomps's avatar - Lottery-033.jpg
    Hard Luck, Ak
    United States
    Member #23472
    October 13, 2005
    287 Posts
    Posted: December 9, 2008, 2:25 am - IP Logged

    LIKE P.T. BARNUM SAID, "THERE IS A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE!"  If it seems to good to be true, guess what it is. I hope the scammers get what they deserve, but since they operate overseas she will probally never get her money back.                       

                                            No Nod

      DC81's avatar - batman39
      United States
      Member #54830
      August 31, 2007
      985 Posts
      Posted: December 9, 2008, 2:50 am - IP Logged

      At least the lady who got scammed out of 40K was scammed in person.... But this.... *Slaps forehead* Just another example of how older doesn't equal wiser. At least with the last story I thought there was a little open to some sympathy, but not this one since seemingly everyone was telling her to stop..

      You can't predict random.

        justxploring's avatar - villiarna
        Wandering Aimlessly
        United States
        Member #25360
        November 5, 2005
        4461 Posts
        Posted: December 9, 2008, 3:51 am - IP Logged

        Bank of America sent me an email because there was a computer glitch regarding my statement, but I still called the customer service number on the back of my credit card and got transferred to the online banking department.  Turned out to be true. 

        Anyway, if this woman is really "lucid" and "intelligent" maybe she's the scammer and is hoping for some sympathy money from do-gooders who read her story.

        "When Spears began to doubt the scam, she got letters from the President of Nigeria, FBI Director Mueller, and President Bush. Terrorists could get the money if she did not help, Bush's letter said. Spears continued to send funds."

        Sorry, but I find it very hard to believe someone in her right mind would believe these were real letters.  A friend of mine who is 70-ish calls herself technically challenged. She called me over the weekend because she couldn't get her brand new GPS to work. No matter what she did, the same street showed.  She described the map to me and I asked "Did you remove the fake picture which protects the screen?" 

        Even she laughs about the emails she gets asking her to send money to Nigeria.

          GamerMom's avatar - tails

          United States
          Member #60535
          April 21, 2008
          460 Posts
          Posted: December 9, 2008, 7:32 am - IP Logged

          I sure wish i had 400,000 to send scammers!!! I wouldn't play the lotto so much LOL

            RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
            United States
            Member #9
            March 24, 2001
            20147 Posts
            Posted: December 9, 2008, 8:32 am - IP Logged

            I wonder if such a lost can be claimed against her taxes?  Would she has to show receipts where she actually sent that amount of money?  If so that might be a way to reduce ones taxes during these hard times.

             * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning one * 
                          Evil Looking       

              truesee's avatar - animated avatars0113lottery.gif
              United States
              Member #48332
              December 21, 2006
              164 Posts
              Posted: December 9, 2008, 8:34 am - IP Logged

              I sure wish i had 400,000 to send scammers!!! I wouldn't play the lotto so much LOL

              I receive everyday emails about long lost relatives and people who have been killed in an accidents with no living relatives.  I have received emails with links to legitamate news stories about no surviving relatives.  On several occasions I have received emails from President Bush, the Director of the FBI and from the Prince  of Saudi Arabi.  They all have asked for either money, bank account information, social security number and address.  Immediately, these emails are deleted because I know that they are a fake. 

              If you watch the news, read the newspapers and watch the court shows many of them address these fraudulent emails.


              In the future if you receive an email telling you that you have won the super lottery and are in line for an inheritance or any lump sum of money.  Please call your Consumer Protection Agency, Google the name of the company or call your local Attorney Generals office.  Most of these agencies will have a list of the fraudulent emails and companies. 

                grengrad's avatar - nw rogue.jpg
                United States
                Member #49057
                January 17, 2007
                172 Posts
                Posted: December 9, 2008, 9:47 am - IP Logged

                Another dumb person being greedy.

                  ThatScaryChick's avatar - x1MqPuM
                  United States
                  Member #56506
                  November 21, 2007
                  6537 Posts
                  Posted: December 9, 2008, 10:28 am - IP Logged

                  It's hard to believe people still fall for this scams. If you didn't enter it, you didn't win it.

                  "No one remembers the person who almost climbed the mountain, only the person who eventually gets to the top."

                    dx123's avatar - white face.jpg
                    Member #39919
                    May 24, 2006
                    150 Posts
                    Posted: December 9, 2008, 11:54 am - IP Logged

                    I was not going to comment on the actions of this silly person who was trying to get something for nothing over an email, but now I'm compelled to say the following.

                    Considering that she is a 'registered nurse', I would be very cautious as to her work ethic dealings with patients. Could she administer the wrong medicine to these patients or Senior folks in her ward or care? This could possibly be a reality for some very sick people looking for their daily medications to live!

                    I would also be very wary as to her 'reverand' duties or capacity to think straight and maintian a 'head on her shoulder' conversation of any discipline or current event occurring in the world at large today. There are 337million Americans and Canadians in North America right now, and we all know of at least 1 gullible person who has an email address to spam. Her inner depths now tell her to spread the word of 'spam' to us all and listen to reason. Poppy-<snip>.

                    This person is 15 years behind the times. No one with any amount of 'live' intelligence could possibly function with a computer and make sence of it the way she did. Another idiot on Earth we all must listen to because she didn't pay attention in the first place. Again, we all must pay the price to listen to the morons who discovered the world...yet again.

                    I honestly feel sorry for the husband, the most loneliest [and broke] person on the planet, right now.



                    This post has been automatically changed by the Lottery Post computer system to remove inappropriate content and/or spam.

                      RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                      United States
                      Member #9
                      March 24, 2001
                      20147 Posts
                      Posted: December 9, 2008, 12:06 pm - IP Logged

                      Another dumb person being greedy.

                      As a Reverend who was a spiritual leader for others and a registered nurse who helped the sick and weak, it was probably hard for her to see herself as gullible, dumb and greedy.

                       * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning one * 
                                    Evil Looking       

                        Littleoldlady's avatar - basket
                        United States
                        Member #487
                        July 15, 2002
                        17638 Posts
                        Posted: December 9, 2008, 5:19 pm - IP Logged

                        her husband needs to MAN UP!!  When she couldn't stop, he should have helped her to stop.  Geesh--she is  stoopid! 4 years to recover?  that's probably off by 10 years.

                        If you know your number is going to hit, have patience and then KILL IT!

                        You never know when you will get another hit.

                          barbos's avatar - gold bar-and-cash1.jpg
                          United States
                          Member #23908
                          October 17, 2005
                          122 Posts
                          Posted: December 10, 2008, 7:12 am - IP Logged

                          I just got this one:


                            Dear Barbos:

                              Your email was selected to receive US$1,500,000.00 from the Canadian Lotto program,

                          Youare to contact Mr. Donald Elvis. with REFERENCE NUMBER:LSLCA/2031/8161/04, BATCH NUMBER: 14/011/IPD, SERIAL NUMBER 046560 forclaim: donaldelvis88@yahoo.com Tel: +44-7624-155259. provide your: Name/Age/Country/Tel

                          Best Regards.

                          Mrs. Lilian Wendy.


                            Yeah I need to hurry up and provide everything - harhar.  They couldn't wait until I get old and naive. If  there is any law enforcement agency that could try to claim my winnings let me know please - I can forward it there.

                            RJOh's avatar - chipmunk
                            United States
                            Member #9
                            March 24, 2001
                            20147 Posts
                            Posted: December 10, 2008, 3:21 pm - IP Logged

                            her husband needs to MAN UP!!  When she couldn't stop, he should have helped her to stop.  Geesh--she is  stoopid! 4 years to recover?  that's probably off by 10 years.

                            It's the 21st century.  Women are independent, they WOMAN UP!! and take blame for their own failures.

                             * you don't need to buy more tickets, just buy a winning one * 
                                          Evil Looking