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`Nigerian 419 fraud spreading in Asia'

Business Line -The Hindu - Finding by Dutch firm - Ultrascan Advanced Global Investigations. The report estimates losses by Indian firms and citizens from the fraud totaled $32 million in 2006, up from $3.5 million in 2005.

Pune March 15 "Pleasant day, would you like to work online from home, temporarily and get paid weekly? If yes. We are glad to offer you a job position in our company, Limco Fabric Material Cooperation Ltd. As part of our multi level marketing network, we seek capable individuals to work for us as our company representative in the US, Canada and the UK. This offer as our company representative can be taken as a part-time job as it has no negative effect on your present job status."

Does it sound familiar?

Yes, this is part of the Nigerian 419, the most widespread financial fraud, which is now gaining base in Asia. And India is the third fastest growing market with the fraudsters' earnings from Indians, increasing nine-fold in one year.

This is the finding by the Dutch firm Ultrascan Advanced Global Investigations. The report estimates losses by Indian firms and citizens from the fraud totaled $32 million in 2006, up from $3.5 million in 2005. This is nothing compared to the $3.88 billion which was raked in last year, according to the report which came out in late January.

But the growth figures are in Asia.

Rise in Dubai

Dubai, where the take from victims increased by 34 times, was followed by Thailand, India and China. Mr Frank Engelsman, who has been tracking the fraud gang for the past 12 years for Ultrascan, in a mail interview noted that "Our view (on 419 connected to India) is that the 419ers operating from there (419ers, not fraudsters in general) are indeed Nigerian-run operations. However, we do also notice an increase in Indians that are unknowingly hired as a front-runner for the Nigerian scamrings, this is also the case with China, most of this takes the shape of call centres, "pretending" to be banks or other fake organisations, that receive the calls from foreign victims/targets.

Most Indian 419 lottery scam cases that we have on record concern older Indians from smaller cities and villages. "In fact, scamartists often specifically target faith-based groups and use religious references to lure victims," he noted.

Mr Frank is of the view that there should a facility for the 419 victims to be able to bring it to the notice, with anonymity.

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