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Oregon Woman Loses $400,000 to Nigerian E-Mail Scam

An Oregon woman who is out $400,000 after falling for a well-known Internet scam says she wasn't a sucker or an easy mark.

Janella Spears of Sweet Home says she simply became curious when she received an e-mail promising her $20.5 million if she would only help out a long-lost relative identified as J.B. Spears with a little money up front.

Spears told KATU-TV about the scammers' ability to identify her relative by name was persuasive.

"That's what got me to believe it," She said. "So, why wouldn't you send over $100?"

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Spears, who is a nursing administrator and CPR teacher, said she mortgaged the house and took a lien out on the family car, and ran through her husband's retirement account.

"The retirement he was dreaming of — cruising and going around and seeing America — is pretty much gone for him right now," she said.

She estimates it will take two years to clear the debt that accumulated in the more than two years she spent sending money to con artists.

Her family and bank officials told her it was all a scam, she said, and begged her to stop, but she persisted because she became obsessed with getting paid.

The scheme is often called the "Nigerian scam" and it's familiar to many people with e-mail accounts. It still exists and it still works.

Spears first sent $100 through an untraceable wire service as directed by the scammers. Then, more multimillion dollar promises followed so long as she sent more money.

The scammers sent Spears official-looking documents and certificates from the Bank of Nigeria and the United Nations. President Bush and FBI Director Robert Mueller were also involved, the e-mails said, and needed her help.

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

But it wasn't and now Spears is paying the price for her costly lesson.

"The hope is [other people] are not going to fall as hard as I fell," Spears said.

• Click here to read more on this story on the Web site of Portland, Ore., TV station KATU.

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