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Made $8,000,000 dollars lately? - Part I

Mark Edwards

We have all received one, the emails from Nigeria or Ghana or Cote D'Ivoire from Escober Tony Sankoh or Chief Bernard Orji or Mr. Ali Mustafa promising us a share of a fabulous amount of loot arising from swindling a corrupt government or the death of a diamond mine owner or foreign business magnate.

The Scam.

This scam is more commonly known as the "419 Scam", "419 Fraud" or "Advance Fee Fraud". The schemes themselves violate section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code, hence the label "419 Fraud."

Central to these proposals is an undisguised attempt by the perpetrators to play upon the greed, credulity and criminal intent of their victims. To most of us these emails are a source of amusement and obviously false. However, to some this offer is not to good to be true and they succumb to the temptation.

The fleecing of their victims start when they are requested to send a small amount of foreign exchange for the initial administrative expenses involved in the transactions. The perpetrators return for more funds this time bigger than the first time ostensibly for the procurement of "fake" documents to facilitate the transactions.

The fleecing continues under an agreed condition of secrecy between the perpetrator and the victims until the latter eventually comes to his/her senses in most cases after losing a substantial amount of money to the perpetrators.

The Cost.


Estimates of the cost to US citizens range from US$150,000,000 to in excess of US$5,000,000,000.


Figures from the UK's National Criminal Intelligence Service show 150 Britons were caught out by the Nigerian 419 scam and its variations in 2002, with a total loss of 8.4m GBP ($13.3m US)or around 57,000 GBP ($90,000 US) a head.


In mid 2002 a Melbourne financial planner allegedly transferred more than $700,000 from clients into a Nigerian letter scam. ASIC alleges that Robert Andrew Street and his company Tira Pty Ltd transferred the money to overseas destinations after receiving a proposal from a person purporting to be the Reverend Sam Kukah, chairman of the Presidential Payment Debt Reconciliation Committee in Nigeria. ASIC is pursuing this case through the Federal Court.

In Part II of this article we will look at the more sinister side to these scams and see that their cost is more than just monetary as well as looking at measures being taken to prevent such fraud from occuring.

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