Nigerians scamming Queenslanders to the tune of $500,000 per month, say police

Nigerian e-mail victims ignore police warnings

Even after being robbed of their life savings, the victims of Nigerian e-mail scams refuse to believe they have been duped by fraudsters.

Not even warnings from police can convince them to stop sending money out of Australia as they hold onto the dream of overnight riches as a result of a huge inheritance, lotto win or once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity.

In Queensland alone, an estimated $500,000 per month is funnelled out of the country, according to detective acting superintendent Brian Hay of the Queensland Police Service.

Hay first began investigating e-mail scams 14 months ago.

"The average [loss] a year ago out of Queensland was $300,000; its now $500,000 per month and increasing all the time," he said.

During this time he has interviewed more than 130 victims who have collectively been defrauded of about $18 million.

Incredibly, the victims aren't keen to prosecute. In fact, Hay said about 75 percent continue to send the scammers money even after being advised they are the victims of fraud.

"They are emotionally attached to their get-rich dream; some have been paying for 10 years and after investing so much effort don't want to face the truth because it is a nightmare," he said.

"I have just interviewed 25 victims who have collectively lost about $7.2 million; many of them have been sending money to Nigeria for years."

Hay presented his findings at the AusCERT 2007 IT Security conference in a joint presentation with Abdulkarim Harisn Chukkol, head of the cybercrime team at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria.

Queensland Police have formed a partnership with the Nigerian agency to share information and secure more prosecutions.

Since the Commission was established in Nigeria four years ago, Chukkol said it has undertaken thousands of arrests and secured $4 billion in assets from e-mail scammers.

Both organizations are planning a national fraud symposium in about two months time to share their information with the rest of Australia, specifically state and territory law enforcement agencies who will be invited to attend.

"These are silent victims that do not come forward to police and there is very little data about this crime; we are hoping more collaboration can be undertaken to protect Australian victims of this crime," Hay said.

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Sandra Rossi

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