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New Letter Scam 24 October 2003

The Office of Fair Trading and the Financial Crime Unit of the Police are warning of the possibility of Island residents falling victim to two latest versions of what is known as advanced fee fraud or 419 fraud. One of these follows a tried and tested form and targets small businesses and individuals.

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.

This latest case is doubly worrying as it claims to have come from solicitors on the Island, Scott and Hall Solicitors, based at Langley Court in Douglas. The Financial Supervision Commission has confirmed that there is no such address or business incorporated in the Island and there are no genuine links between Scott and Hall and the Isle of Man.

The second version of the scam relies on our sympathetic nature. An Isle of Man registered bank has reported that they are being contacted by persons in the US and Malaysia who have what appears to be a 419 letter. A US citizen received a phone call from a woman in the Netherlands stating she was terminally ill and wished to leave $18 million to charity. The person was offered 25% of these funds if they could accept the transfer into their bank account. This call was followed up by a letter sent by fax bearing the banks header and full address details the only difference was the contact telephone and fax numbers which appear to be UK mobiles.

The fax stated that a reconciliation fee of 4,000 was payable to secure the release of the funds and requested the details of the persons bank account and copy of identification.

Other incidents have been very similar in approach but carried out by email.

The advice from the agencies is under no circumstances to reply to any communication you may receive. 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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