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Received a letter from South Africa? 23 November 2006

If you have recently received a letter from Engineer Soloman Zuma at the Department of Minerals and Energy in Pretoria South Africa you can rest assured you aren’t the only one. Engineer Zuma has written to dozens of Island residents and businesses offering them the opportunity of a lifetime. He will allow you to keep 30% of $14.5 million in exchange for you allowing him to transfer the money into your account.

Don’t be tempted to respond to Mr Zuma. The reality is that this is a tried and tested fraud. It has been given a number of names in the past: Nigerian letter fraud (it originated in Nigeria), advanced fee fraud or 419 fraud (named after the Nigerian criminal code that it violates).

This one follows a standard form. A letter, fax or e-mail marked “urgent” or “confidential” arrives. The sender claims to be a senior government or central bank official of an African country (often but not always Nigeria) who has managed to over-inflate a contract generating personal profit and is looking for a way to smuggle the money out of the country. They appeal to the recipient of the communication for help in doing this and in return the recipient is offered a percentage, usually between 10 and 30 per cent for their help. At first no money is requested but once a victim has been drawn in, requests are made for legal and administrative costs, full personal details and bank account numbers etc. In earlier cases victims have lost hundreds of pounds when the fraudsters disappear taking the money with them.

Nick Black, Chief Officer of the Isle of Man Office of Fair Trading, commented “This Office, The Financial Supervision Commission and the Financial Crime Unit of the Police have received dozens of complaints as a result of these or similar contacts. Our advice is under no circumstances should anyone reply to these letters. If you have already replied or have paid money over as a result of one of these contacts you should immediately contact the Financial Crime Unit on 686000”.

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