"This is a desperately poor country with wonderful people who are very intelligent, a good school system [but] no jobs," Brian says.

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According to Brian Ross, ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent, this e-mail scam—and others just like it—are so seductive that many victims end up losing their life savings or going to prison.

During a three-month 20/20 investigation, Brian uncovered thousands of cons on the Internet, which he says is home to the greatest collection of scam artists ever.

The story also appealed to Patricia's compassionate side.

"He sounded so sincere, so desperate for help," she says.

Of the millions of Americans they target, Steve says about 1 percent of people fall for it, which is enough to keep them in business.

Brian says very intelligent and well-educated people have fallen for these scams.

They've doomed their people to a life of poverty, and the lesson has been taught that you can get away with crimes and nothing happens." For years, Nigerian con men got away with their crimes and made small fortunes..not anymore.

Pressure from the United States and Great Britain has prompted the government to start cracking down.

Patricia called Nigeria and was told that in exchange for her help, she would be financially rewarded.

"Part of me was willing to sacrifice some of my money for the opportunity to perhaps doubling it, maybe even tripling it," she says.

"He had supposedly been in a logging truck accident, and needed to the United States for some reconstructive surgery," Patricia says.