Taiwan: Nigerian scams prevalent, warns government
Updated Saturday, June 19, 2010 0:48 am TWN, CNA
Nigerian scams prevalent, warns gov't
TAIPEI -- As many as 12 Taiwanese have fallen victim to Nigerian fraudsters in the past year, including one woman who ended up being raped in Malaysia two months ago by her scammers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday, warning the public to be on their guard.
Dubbed “419” (the listing number of this type of crime in the Nigerian criminal code), the scams have been around for decades. The usual format is where the fraudster sends out massive numbers of “phishing” emails in the hope that someone will take the bait. The method has also extended to online auctions and shopping websites, as well as personal ads.
The most common form of phishing email purports to come from a person claiming to need help from a holder of a bank account overseas who is willing to accept a massive sum of money into his account on the scammer's behalf, with the promise of a sizeable “handling fee” for the transaction. If the victim can be persuaded to provide personal and banking details, the fraudsters immediately use the information to clean out the victim's account.
In Taiwan, said the ministry, most of the scams involve online transactions in which a Taiwanese seller has listed items on a website such as eBay, and a buyer, usually based in Nigeria, places an enticingly high bid.
“The buyer then claims that according to Nigerian regulations, their citizens are not allowed to wire money internationally until the item has been received. In the past year, 12 people have been cheated out of cell phones, cameras and laptops,” said Charles Chou, a section chief of the Department of African Affairs.
MOFA officials said most of the victims in Taiwan are considered highly educated because the communications are conducted in English. The age of the most recent victims range from the mid-50s to the early 20s. Chou said the department has suggested to the Executive Yuan's Office of Homeland Security that the various shopping websites popular in Taiwan should include a running headline across the page to caution sellers about online scams.
Another cyber-crime case is that of a Taiwanese woman aged over 50 who fell for a man whom she met online. Upon finally traveling to Malaysia to meet with him in real life, however, he and his accomplices gang-raped her before robbing her of her money and belongings.
A MOFA official said he could not confirm the nationality of her attackers, but added that they were “probably from Nigeria.”
“We are asking the public to think twice before disclosing personal information to strangers online. One small mistake can cause irreparable damage,” Chou said.
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