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Nigerian held on web fraud

Mahesh Sharma | September 30 2008

QUEENSLAND police have helped Nigerian authorities nab a 23-year-old Nigerian man who allegedly used a fake female profile on a romance website to defraud a Queensland man of $20,000. The accused, who was arrested and charged with fraud by the Nigerian Economic Financial Crimes Commission last week, is alleged to have targeted a 45-year-old Queensland resident by posing as a female on an online relationship website and convincing him to send money.

Queensland Police Service Fraud and Corporate Crime Group Detective Superintendent Brian Hay said there had been 10 arrests to date as a result of joint sting operations conducted with the Nigerian authorities.

"It's getting better than it was," Mr Hay said. "It's not where it could be, but a it's darn sight further down the track than it was a couple of years ago.

"We know there are hundreds and thousands of victims out there just by looking at the flood of money leaving Australia. It demands attention."

Romance sites are among the biggest growth areas for advance-fee fraud crime groups, as scammers move beyond spamming millions of email inboxes to find fraud targets.

Detective Hay said people who responded to emails were added to a sucker list that could be accessed by other criminals.

"Once they've got the name of a victim and feel they've exploited them for all they can, they will sell the name to other fraudsters."

A recent victim of fraud was a 73 year-old pensioner from central Queensland, who lost thousands of dollars in two separate scams.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, uses computers daily, but fell victim to an inheritance scam and a fake win of a car in England, where she paid money for the "taxes and the transport" of the vehicle to get it to Australia.

She was reluctant to believe she was being scammed and only stopped sending money after the police had spoken to her.

"You don't really know if they are or they aren't," the woman told The Australian. "They ask for so much money, you just don't have the money to even pursue it, so you don't really know."

Detective Hay has suggested that internet service providers can play a role in protecting internet users against advance fee fraud, using internet protocol blocking.

"We'd like to see better IP blocking," Detective Hay said.

"For example, if the industry came together and shared their mischief IPs and rogue IPs, they could block them."

Or they could decide they were going to block postings from certain countries or locations.

"There's ground that can be made that will protect their clients."

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has discussed using ISP-level filtering to block some sites, but Detective Hay said there had been no discussions on blocking fraud sites.

"We've had no discussions, even though the issue of IP filtering has been discussed for some time in a variety of forms." Queensland Police say money is increasingly being sent to several countries besides Nigeria, including Britain, the US and Germany.

"An examination of 37 case studies showed that for every $1 sent to Nigeria, $1.04 is sent to other countries due to advance fee frauds.

"Investigations showed money was sent to 42 different countries, proving the Nigerian fraud scams work through a global network."

The Queensland Police Fraud and Corporate Crime Group will host a National Advance Fee Fraud Symposium in Brisbane next month.

It will be attended by representatives of the Nigerian Economic Financial Crimes Commission, the US Department of Justice and the US Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the National Police Service of Holland.

Detective Hay said Queensland Police had been leading the charge against advance fee fraud but there was strong collaboration with all other states and territories.

"One thing I think Australian law enforcement is very good at is recognising the waste of time and resources reinventing the wheel," he said.

"We might be leading the cause in respect of this, but then you'll have NSW leading the way in another area, and you'll have Victoria leading the way in another. We're very efficient and good at sharing information and strategies."

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