Sucheta Dalal :Scam Probe Uncovers 'Startling' Evidence In Nigeria
Sucheta Dalal

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Scam Probe Uncovers 'Startling' Evidence In Nigeria  

September 10, 2007

Investigators recover more than 15,000 counterfeit checks

An international operation to crack down on Internet and postal scams has uncovered new insights into how scammers operate from Nigeria, officials say.

The investigation, involving the U.S. Postal Service, Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and the UK’s Serious Organized Crimes Agency pored over tons of outward bound packages in the pre-exporting mail processing centers of the Nigerian Postal Service and private courier companies like FedEx, UPS and DHL.

Officials say the operation uncovered startling evidence of how criminal elements operating from the country ship fake documents and counterfeit financial instruments abroad.

An inspection of several packages revealed fraudulent identification and counterfeit financial instruments neatly concealed in carbon paper to evade the sensors of scanners.

In all, some 15,129 counterfeit checks related to advance fee fraud scams were intercepted. They include 6,948 blank checks and others drawn for the sums totaling $145.9 million.

Even though these "419" email scams have been around almost as long as the Internet, people still fall for them. It has been estimated that there are well over 250,000 scammers involved in 419 scams worldwide and that they reap in over $1.5 billion annually.

The average victim pays out about $20,000.

-- Sucheta Dalal