NORTH SMITHFIELD — It's called the “black money” scam, a popular fraud that has apparently snared a victim in North Smithfield.
North Smithfield Police Captain Bradley Aubin said a person who lives in town came to the police station on Wednesday to report that he had been victimized by the scam, in which the scammers show the victim several black pieces of paper which they claim is cash that has been dyed. The scammers tell the victim they need money for a special chemical solution to clean the bills and make them usable again.
The victim is asked to put up money to purchase the cleaning solution, which the scammers say they will purchase. If the victim pays, he never gets the chemicals and eventually discovers he has a suitcase full of worthless black paper instead of $100 bills.
“This person came to us to report that he been scammed,” said Aubin, adding investigators were able to recover from the victim a box filled with dyed pieces of paper resembling bills.
The black money scam is believed to have originated in Nigeria around 2000 and has cropped up throughout the U.S. since that time. Swindlers tell an intended victim that they have a large sum of money that was dyed black so that it would not be detected by federal customs officials while it was transported from another nation. To return the currency to its natural state, they say, it has to be washed with an expensive chemical. If the victim can front the money for the chemical, he will receive some of the newly washed cash for his initial investment.
This explanation is usually accompanied by a briefcase full of black paper cut to the size of currency that swindlers show the victim. They then take one of the bills, a piece of currency that actually has been dyed — often with Elmer’s glue and iodine — and then dip it in a solution that removes the coating to show a real piece of currency. That “magical chemical” can vary.
According to Capt. Aubin, the department called in the Woonsocket Fire Department's hazmat team to examine the “black money” because they did not know what chemicals or dyes may have been on it.
“We've investigated all kinds of scams here in North Smithfield, but as far as I know this is the first time we've run into a black money scam,” he said.