The Secret Service is raising alarms about a so-called "black money" scam operating in the Northeast that's already relieved three idiots of $170,000. So if someone approaches you with a huge amount of cash that looks like it's been blacked-out with magic marker, don't trust them. Here's how the scam works.

The grifters, who've been posing as Liberian exiles and approaching targets in nightclubs in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine, claim to have hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash that's been coated in black dye as a way to get through U.S. customs without declaring it. All they need to do now, they tell their marks, is wash the cash in a special chemical that removes the dye and they're home free. Trouble is, that chemical is really expensive, and the only cash they have is blacked-out. What a conundrum!

So they ask the marks that for a short-term loan to buy the chemicals, which will be repaid in full with significant interest as soon as the money is washed. From the Associated Press:

Victims withdraw money and provide it to the fraudsters who go to hotel rooms to wash the cash, which is dyed with black shoe polish, Powers said.

The washing solution is a mixture of chlorine, ammonia and laundry detergent that is mixed in a bathroom tub and gives off a powerful smell that usually overcomes victims to the point that they leave the fraudsters alone with the money, which is later locked in a safe, Powers said.

After the money is washed, the scammers and victims leave the hotel for a meal. Powers said they leave the victims with the hotel room and safe keys.

What they find in the locked safe, is usually black construction paper.

"The rate of return is zero," Powers said.

In another version of the scam—which, by the way, has been around for some time—the Liberians claim that the chemical reaction needed to remove the dye requires large quantities of clean cash, for some reason.They got one Massachusetts body shop owner to hand over $100,000 in cash—yes, $100,000—with the promise of $300,000 once the reaction is complete.

People are exceedingly stupid.

[Image via Shutterstock]