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With rising unemployment, a plunging stock market and life savings in some cases being wiped out, some Americans might be looking for an easy fix.
That creates a welcome sign for con artists.
"When the economy goes bad, the scammers come out because it's easy pickings," said Randy Dolyniuk, chairman and CEO of Coastal States Bank on Hilton Head Island.
Dolyniuk said he has seen many types of scams in his 32 years in banking, including one recent example in which a client called to say he had won $1 million in the Spanish lottery, although he hadn't purchased a ticket.
The scammers told him he had to pay $10,000 in cash for "taxes" to get the winnings.
"He'd already given them his checking account numbers," Dolyniuk said. "We had to close his bank account."
If the account hadn't been closed, the client might have lost his money.
"There would've been nothing we could've done at that point," Dolyniuk said.
Such scams, especially those that claim to originate from Nigeria, Israel and Spain, generally tell people they've won something, but that they must first send cash to collect the winnings, he said.
Cpl. Robin McIntosh of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said in an e-mail there are hundreds of versions of this scheme, commonly referred to as the "Nigerian Scam," but they all have the same motives: extorting money, luring victims with promises of instant riches, and identity theft.