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Ultimately, whatever yarn is spun, most the scams come down to getting a consumer to send money via a wire transfer overseas. It's never a good idea to wire money, particularly out of the country. Avoiding wire transfers would put a big dent in the success of Nigerian scams.

Other advice for consumers:

Use Google. Dozens of sites now index large lists of names and other elements of Nigerian scams.  If unsure, put parts of the story into the Google search engine and click. If it's a scam, it's likely someone else on the Internet will have published a complaint.
Verify the legitimacy of a bank. The FDIC maintains a database of federally insured banks on its Web site.
Always use a credit card.  Consumers have wide protection when paying for Internet-based transactions with a credit card.  Checks are easily forged — even cashier's checks, sometimes called bank checks. U.S. consumers think they are guaranteed. Banks can take up to two weeks to confirm authenticity of a cashier's check, according to the American Bankers Association — even if the funds are made available to the depositor.  If a check doesn't check out, the bank will take its money back. The consumer will be on the hook for any withdrawals made against that deposited amount.

Blog with Chris Hansen

If you’re like me, you’ve likely received unsolicited e-mails offering you the chance of a lifetime

Watch more of Chris Hansen and Dateline's investigative reports, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. on NBC.

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