W African fraudsters get smarter

Shakeman Mugari

THE authors of the West African advance-fee fraud scam, known as 419, have now devised another method to defraud bank account holders.



vetica, sans-serif”>Perpetrators of the 419 fraud, named after a section of the Nigerian criminal code, which has been widely used to defraud individuals and even prominent organisations, have come up with an electronic means of gaining access to people’s bank accounts.

The 419, which most West African countries have been struggling to deal with over the years, has now taken root in southern Africa with Zimbabwe becoming the latest target.

Account holders of international banks such as Barclays – and many who do not hold accounts – have received Internet messages encouraging them to “reactivate” their accounts. The message encourages the recipient to enter their account number supposedly to take advantage of the bank’s new security system.

Experts say this will give the defrauders instant access to the account holder’s funds. The technology also includes the hacking into of authentic websites of banks. An official from Barclays Bank said account holders should not respond to such messages as they could lead to loss of money.

“Account holders must not respond to such messages. These messages are not authentic and as such not a product of the bank,” said a senior official at Barclays.

Supposed account holders of Lloyd’s TSB of the UK have also been targeted by the fraudsters. The e-mails received by what are presumed to be Lloyd’s TSB account holders read almost the same as the ones sent to Barclays account holders.

An official from the Nigerian embassy said his government had started a massive crackdown on graft, especially the 419 scam.

Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena this week said although some local companies and individuals had received such e-mails there were no recorded cases of the victims losing out financially.

“We have had reports of people having received those e-mails on the 419 but there have not been any cases of the fraudsters succeeding,” he said.

“Our records show that nobody has lost out financially, unless the victims decided to keep quiet about it.”

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