A fool and his money are soon parted, especially if the fool believes everything in his e-mail box.
Darrel Van Sickle wasn't fooled, however.
The former owner of Darrel's Pool Supplies on Dearborn Street thought something was fishy when he got an e-mail recently telling him he had won a lottery. All he needed to collect his winnings was to contact a "fiduciary agent" who would facilitate a transfer of his funds, most likely by asking Van Sickle to provide his bank information so the money could be sent directly to his account.
"Nothing's free and I didn't give them anything," Van Sickle said.
And had Van Sickle fallen for this, he would have likely found his bank account dry as a bone in a matter of days.
And he wouldn't have been alone. Millions of people around the world have fallen for scams such as this one.
"It's psychology 101," said Ken Kleinlein, an Englewood resident who works as a consultant on the issue of scams and confidence schemes. "People wish for good fortune and they will it to be true."
In Van Sickle's case, the e-mail asked him to keep his status as a winner confidential until the money appeared in his bank account. This would be never, of course.
Such scams predate the Internet, Kleinlein said.
"I've seen things like this going back 25 years to when I was a detective in New York City," he said.
Fraud e-mails typically originate from outside the United States, particularly in Nigeria, the Netherlands and, most recently, Spain, Kleinlein said.
For more information on e-mail frauds or to report a complaint, visit the Federal Trade Commission Web site at www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).