Two Nigerians detained on e-mail fraud charges

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Two Nigerians detained on e-mail fraud charges

It’s an old story: An e-mail from a stranger announces the recipient is a beneficiary of a multimillion-dollar deposit in a foreign bank. All that has to be done to claim the money is paying a customs fee. The offer that sounds too good to be true of course is, but that doesn’t stop the scam from working. What’s rarer is the story where a perpetrator gets caught.

Two Nigerians were arrested and detained on fraud charges yesterday after police said they collected 258 million won ($232,809) from eight Koreans - including a college professor - by claiming to be representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria between January 2009 and last February. Five Nigerian accomplices within the country are still wanted, police said.

“They targeted intellectuals and wealthy people who are well-educated enough to have a good command of English,” said Lee Min-seop, an officer with the foreigner investigation division at Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. “It’s likely that this type of scam will increase in Korea because of the number of people who speak English and wider use of the Web.”

According to police, in one case the Nigerians, identified as M and D, sent an English-language e-mail to a professor surnamed Jeong, 65, claiming to be bankers holding a $2.5 million inheritance for her in Nigeria. To back it up, they e-mailed fake payment approval documents appearing to be from the Nigerian presidential office and Central Bank. Jeong made several wire transfers to the “bankers,” turning over a total of 40 million won.

With other victims, the Nigerians claimed to be United Nations diplomats or FBI officials, again using doctored documents to bolster their scam. Police said when they succeeded in getting an initial payment, they followed it up with demands for more money by claiming they were having difficulties transferring the funds.

The scheme is often conducted entirely by e-mail or post, and police are still investigating what M and D, who entered Korea claiming to be apparel exporters, were doing here.

“If the money is wired to an overseas account there’s no way police can find it, but here the victims’ money ended up in Korean accounts and that’s why they were caught,” the official said.


By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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