mirror.co.uk - IT'S a scam that's rampaging across the globe. There are many versions of advance fee fraud, all with one thing in common - receiving money for goods that are never delivered.
Because so many of the perpetrators are Nigerian, the scam is also known as 419 fraud after a section in the Nigerian legal code.
Four years ago the new Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission fought back and has since notched up almost 100 convictions for 419 fraud. This still leaves a long way to go, according to global security expert Ultrascan, which estimates there are around 250,000 fraudsters operating from inside Nigeria.
Nigerians are behind more than 90 per cent of the £1.5bn global advance fee cons. Ultrascan calls the fraudsters a "rapidly growing and insidious threat to the global economy, mercilessly exploiting humans for financial gain".
Or, as we'd put it, parasitic scum...
MEET one of the best travelled puppies in the world.
We've called the Yorkshire terrier Porky, on account of all the lies being told about it.
Porky the Yorkie is just the latest example of rampant advance fee fraud, this time aimed at dog lovers.
Her saga began with someone calling herself Catherine emailing the Daily Mirror and asking to place a small ad to sell the puppy for £200.
Catherine picked the wrong email address, because her message came to us at email@example.com
Implausibly, she said she wanted the ad to run for a month.
When we told her the cost would be £2,000 more than the price of the puppy, she still wanted to go ahead - at a guess this was because payment would be with a stolen or cloned credit card.
The ad never appeared in the Daily Mirror, but the overseas conmen weren't to know that.
So we let a couple of days pass then contacted them from an anonymous email address, claiming to be a reader who had seen the non-existent ad.
"I've always owned a Yorkie and desperately want to replace my last one who was run over," we emailed.
Catherine replied with what she said was a picture of herself with Porky, saying: "Thanks for the interest in my baby, sure the puppy still available for sale."
Despite giving a London address - which was just a mail-forwarding service - she claimed the Yorkie was registered with the American Kennel Club.
But she and Porky were no longer in London or even the US. They were in Nigeria and about to depart for Kenya.
Like we said, well-travelled.
Porky could be still be ours but a suspiciously cheap £50 shipping fee was added to the asking price.
Catherine then got pushy: "Kindly get back to me now so that I can arrange for her shipment."
We asked her to fax the Kennel Club registration form so she came up with the rubbish excuse: "I left it in England."
We told her not to worry and claimed to have a friend in Kenya who could meet her, check out Porky and pay in cash. But meeting us is the last thing Catherine - or rather the gang posing as Catherine - wanted.
She claimed she'd be leaving Porky in Nigeria when she left for Kenya and again demanded we wire the payment.
Knowing the crooks would hate this, we said we'd email a copy of her picture to the relevant branch of Western Union so no one else could collect the money. "This should stop it being stolen by conmen," we explained ironically.
The gang would never get the money if only the person in the picture could collect it, so now "Catherine" told us that a "legal practitioner" called Wasiu would collect it on her behalf.
Fine, we said. Email us his picture instead. And that was the last we heard from her...
Ultrascan FIU Financial Intelligence Unit - A mixture of intelligence gathering, investigations, reputational risk mitigation and Innovative Technology in line of objectives. Focused on external information and stakeholder engagement, to detect exposure to financial crime risk.