Family Loses .3M in ‘Nigerian’ Inheritance Scam
A QUEENSLAND family has been fleeced of more than .3 million in an elaborate variation of a scam that persuades people to part with large sums of money so they can retrieve an overseas inheritance, police say.
The fraud has become known as the Nigerian 419 scam.
Steven Baker, a member of the Queensland family who lost up to .5 million, has told police he was approached by a friend who believed her father, whom she had never met, had left a $US17 million (.38 million) estate when he passed away.
He said the woman had never met her father, but she knew his name and responded to a newspaper advertisement that had individually targeted her, mentioning both her name and her father’s.
Fraudsters communicated with the woman through a solicitor from a Liberian legal firm offering her the “inheritance”, however the woman could not afford the requested series of payments to cover supposed legal fees, administrative charges and local taxes to forward the funds to Australia.
Mr. Baker was then approached to help.
During the scam, which lost the Baker family between .3 million and .5 million since early 2005, Mr Baker travelled to Europe three times, where he was shown an elaborate ruse of fake government officialdom in Spain, Italy and Holland and was taken to a Spanish bank and shown a case of United States currency that was supposedly the inheritance.
“The professionalism of it is just unbelievable, the paperwork, the officials, going to government departments, you would think if they were straight out scammers they wouldn’t have access to government officials and places and the paperwork with all the stamps,” Mr. Baker told ABC radio.
Mr. Baker came forward to police after viewing a current affairs segment on Nigerian-style scams last month.
Police said the scam in which the Baker family lost money was an especially elaborate version of the Nigerian-style scam, which can originate from any part of the world.
“We can only theorize how they came to know (the woman) and I would suggest it would be from online chat rooms where she thinks she knows who she’s talking to, and people say a lot of things that they wouldn’t tell others,” Detective Acting Superintendent Brian Hay of the Fraud and Corporate Crime Group said.
“I’d say they built up a profile and specifically targeted that person. (This is a) very elaborate, well-resourced and well-organized scam.”
The Baker family should feel no shame, he said.
“They saw an opportunity, it (seemed) legitimate, they did a lot of research, a lot of the names of the companies and businesses all panned out to be legitimate with their cursory inquires.”
Anyone who is asked to send money overseas for an investment or inheritance retrieval should contact the country’s consulate in Australia first, he said.
One man has been arrested in Amsterdam following Mr. Baker’s complaint.