This is perhaps the best known email scam, but just one of many. The emails are from crooks trying to trying to steal your money or your identity. Con artists claim to represent former government officials in Nigeria or another country and ask for your help to transfer large sums of money out of the country because they know you are “honorable.” If you respond to the initial offer, you may receive documents that look ""official"" or even trunks of dyed or stamped money as the fraudsters try to verify their claims. At some point they ask you to send money, using plausible sounding excuses like transaction costs and attorney's fees, or ask for your bank account numbers or other identity information. They may even encourage you to travel to complete the transaction. According to State Department reports, people who have responded to ""pay in advance"" solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered.
If you receive an email from someone claiming to need your help getting money out of a foreign country, don't respond. Forward ""Nigerian"" scams including all the email addressing information to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you've lost money to one of these schemes, call your local Secret Service field office.