TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Nigerian Scams Cost Britons and the Internet Millions Annually

Nigerian Scams Cost Britons and the Internet Millions Annually

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Mon, 20 Nov 2006 17:21:50 -0600

By Matthew Jones

Internet scams, credit card fraud and money laundering operations
originating in Nigeria cost Britons millions of pounds a year, a
report on Monday said.

The problem has become so prevalent that Nigerians in Britain are in
danger of being widely seen as corrupt, the study from the Chatham
House think-tank added.

But neither Britain nor Nigeria are taking the problem seriously, it

"Private-sector fraudsters and corrupt public officials and British
companies have profited from the general Western focus on terrorist
financing, drugs and people trafficking," it said.

Britons now closely associate the African country with the so-called
"advance fee" scam whereby people are contacted by e-mail and offered
the opportunity to earn millions of dollars.

The recipient is told they will earn a commission in exchange for
aiding the sender in transferring funds.

The victim has to send bank details or even cash, ostensibly to help
pay off corrupt officials, and then the victim's bank account is

"The frauds are often mischievously inventive and run on an industrial
scale," the report said.

Among the variations, victims have been offered the chance to benefit
from a share of Saddam Hussein's family savings and even money
"looted" from the rubble of the World Trade Center after the September
11 attacks.

According to the Chatham House report, an analysis by Dutch-based
consultancy Ultrascan concluded the total losses from advance fee
fraud scams to British companies and individuals in 2005 was $520
million (275 million pounds).

Only the United States was worse off, losing $720 million that year.
Nigeria was not the only source of such scams.

Although the scam has been widely publicized, people still fall for it
through a mixture of greed, naivete and a sense of racial superiority,
the British study said.

"The fraudsters play on the enduring myth of African infantilism and
simple-mindedness: a European who believes in this might find it
unremarkable that a Nigerian holding tens of millions of dollars would
be clueless about what to do with it. In such circumstances, what
could be more natural than to turn to the clever white person for

Nigeria is also becoming a center for "phishing" attacks in which
people receive e-mails, purportedly from their banks, asking for
account details and PINs.

Other Nigerian-origin crimes include forged checks and postal orders,
with 20 million pounds ($38 million) worth of such items found in one
day at Heathrow Airport during a spot check.

Corrupt Nigerian officials have also traditionally used London to
launder embezzled money, the study says, noting about $1.3 billion
looted by the late Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha was processed
via British financial institutions.

Britain and Nigeria must work closer together if there is to be any
chance of tackling the problem, the report concluded.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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