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Scamming the Nigerian scammers?

An Australian woman unknowingly turned the tables on her Nigerian 'employers' -- but she took the fall and they got off scot-free.

By Giselle Smith Feb 27, 2012 6:10PM

An Australian woman who was targeted by Nigerian scam artists apparently spent more than $30,000 of their gains from a phony Internet car sales operation.


Sarah Jane Cochrane-Ramsey, 23, was hired in March 2010 as an "agent" for a Nigerian-based company, according to The Courier-Mail. Her job was to open an Australian bank account, where money would be paid from a "dodgy account on a popular car sales website," The Courier-Mail said.


The young woman was to keep 8% of the money as a commission and then forward the rest to Nigeria, but when two people purchased cars on the Internet and payments of $14,850 and $17,500 were deposited into Cochrane-Ramsay's bank account, she spent the money instead, The Courier-Mail reported.


A common scam with uncommon results

So-called "Nigerian scams" are familiar and well-reported. They are also known as 419 scams, from the number of the section of the Nigerian penal code that addresses fraud schemes.


The most common arrives as an email solicitation from a "wealthy foreigner who needs help moving millions of dollars from his homeland (and) promises a hefty percentage of this fortune as a reward for assisting him," according to


In this case, the Nigerians set up a Web server in New York, and payments went to Cochrane-Ramsey's account in Brisbane. When the would-be car buyers realized they'd been scammed, they reported the crime to police, who traced the money to Cochrane-Ramsey. (Post continues below.)

This is not the first story of Nigerian scam artists being scammed. In 2008, This American Life ran a story about a trio of vigilante "enforcers" who met via a website called 419 Eater and together baited a Nigerian con man into traveling 1,400 miles to the border of Darfur to supposedly collect a cash payoff of $200,000.


"Genuinely remorseful" 

Cochrane-Ramsey pleaded guilty in Brisbane District Court last week to one count of aggravated fraud. She said she had no idea that her employers were dishonest, thus "denying herself the defense that she was somehow attempting to give her fellow scammers a taste of their own medicine," Slate said.


Her attorney, Harry Fong, said she was "an immature young woman" who simply took advantage of having money in her account, according to The Courier-Mail:

He said Cochrane-Ramsay (sic) had no part in the actual Internet fraud and had not heard from (the Nigerian firm) since they realised they were being investigated.
Mr. Fong said Cochrane-Ramsay was now a mother of a young child, was genuinely remorseful, and willing to pay compensation.

The judge in the case, though he said she had a "dishonest bent," released Cochrane-Ramsey on bail, The Courier-Mail reported. She will be sentenced next month.


Despite reports that Cochrane-Ramsey "turned the tables" on her Nigerian employers, the scam artists who set up the car sales operation have not been identified or charged with any crime.


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