South African police have arrested 15 Nigerian men suspected of fooling thousands of people into sending them money by pretending to be the central bank of South Africa.
According to Associated Press reports the alleged gang operated via email and promised to pay its victims a commission for looking after $10m. It directed them to a website which looked similar to that of the South African Central Bank.
The fictitious website was then used to ask for advance payments to cover insurance and other costs. When the money was paid, it disappeared, according to police.
The website gave the scheme the appearance of legitimacy, the police said. The gang also diverted phone calls and created fictitious email addresses to fool people.
Reports of emailed Nigerian money scams, designed to obtain recipients' bank account details by offering to transfer large sums to them for safekeeping, rose by 900 per cent between 2000 and 2001, according to US consumer groups.
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