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PRESS RELEASE: Sept. 7; State Police and FBI Warn of Computer Scam;
State Police and U.S. Officials Seek Additional Victims
Investigators from the Michigan State Police Computer Crimes Unit and the
FBI are asking Michigan residents who may have been victims of a
sophisticated international computer scam to step forward. An international
criminal organization operating out of Nigeria and Canada has been
perpetrating a large-scale international scam known as the West
African-based Organized Advance Fee Fraud, more commonly known as the
"Nigerian Letter Scam."


The group is part of a large criminal organization based in Nigeria and
until recently perpetrated their scam for the past eight years in the
Toronto, Canada area. However, investigators also believe the scam was
pulled on American citizens as well. Victims include busy professionals of
all walks of life, including a cattle rancher, insurance agent, hotel chain
owner, brewery consultant, importer-exporter, and a recreational vehicle
salesperson, to name a few. Officials from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
(RCMP) have identified 300 victims with individual losses ranging from
$52,000 to $5 million.


Typically, in the first phase of this fraud, intended victims received a
letter either by mail or fax allegedly from officials of a large Nigerian
institution, such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation or the
Central Bank of Nigeria. These letters are mass solicitations with potential
victim names coming from corporate directories, professional memberships, or
trade publications.. The letter requested an urgent and confidential
business relationship between the perpetrators and the intended victims for
the purpose of transferring funds out of Nigeria to financial institutions
in the victim's nation of residence. The letters are allegedly from Nigerian
civil servants that claim to have a legitimate right to the funds. The
letter explains that Nigerian civil servants are forbidden to own or operate
a foreign account and therefore they need the assistance of the intended
victims to protect the money.


The victim is offered a payment for their assistance, usually 10 to 20
percent of the funds in uestion. The victim is asked to forward personal
financial information, including banking information as well as copies of
the victim's corporate letterhead and invoices so the money can be deposited
directly into the victim's account. Once the victim discloses the financial
information, phase two of the scam kicks in. In phase two, the victims
receives a call from the perpetrators indicating that funds have cleared
Nigeria and are now allegedly secure in a clearing house or mercantile bank
in North America.


On several cases, the names Olympic Finance Clearinghouse, Dow Financial
Corporation, (Toronto, Canada), Commercial Mercantile Corporation (Detroit),
or American Fidelity Corporation (Chicago), have been named.
Although the alleged financial institutions are reportedly in North America,
phone numbers provided to the victims are call-forwarded to a "boiler room"
center. When the victims makes contact with the bogus financial institution,
they are told that before the money can be released there are fees for
taxes, duties, or environmental levies that must be paid. Once the fees are
paid, the victim is then informed of additional fees. The scam continues
until the victim is broke. The fraudulent business deal is never
consummated.


Working with the FBI, and the United States Secret Service, the RCMP has
made several arrests. However authorities are quick to indicate that the
perpetrators were careful not to victimize people in the country they were
operating out of, isolating themselves from both local victims and detection
by local police. Authorities believe that more victims, possibly in the
Untied States, still remain.. Anyone in Michigan with information regarding
this scam is being asked to contact the nearest Michigan State Police Post,
the Michigan State Police Computer Crimes Unit, 734/525-4579 (Detroit area),
517/336-2010 (out state), or the FBI, Detroit Office, 313/965-2323. "These
perpetrators are very good con artists. When contacting their victims they
sound very knowledgeable about international banking, are well-spoken and
very professional in their delivery," states D/Lt. Brian Albright, Michigan
State Police Computer Crimes Unit. "They are experts in the confidence game,
consequently the victims are easy prey."

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Copyright 1996 Gamma Investigative Research Last Modified: 29 June, 2005