Fight back against fraudsters

In these pressing times who can resist the opportunity of money for nothing: to get the fast train to riches without having to invest all hopes and pound coins on lottery tickets?

Who wouldn't be tempted by a $10 million bonus for helping to release the money-laundering profits of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, or another $25 million for supporting similar efforts by the family of General Sani Abacha to recover their ill-gotten gains from Swiss bank accounts?

There was a time when such opportunities came in the shape of badly written letters from West Africa; now it's an industrial-scale email scam.

All that aside, it's been a fortuitous time for me. I have been offered free iPads and impossibly cheap teeth-whitening products, received three notifications of legacies, and won a number of lotteries from faraway countries such as Canada and Spain.

Taking advantage of all my four-leaf clover opportunities would make me the net recipient of over £100 million.

Playing the conmen

I remember when I met one of the London-based Nigerian fraudsters. They were expecting me to hand over £15,000 in cash to help them get their millions out of Nigeria.

In a scene from Checkpoint Charlie outside a Shell petrol station in north London, I gave the agreed password: "Is the doctor well?"

The young woman, who was in her twenties and dressed in office garb, responded: "The doctor is well and sends his greetings to you and your family."

I had responded to just one of the hundreds of email scams along similar lines I receive every month. In truth, I did it principally out of boredom.

I pretended to be naive and vulnerable, and deliberately played hard to catch, so they wouldn't smell a rat.

After a long dance over the phone, I suggested I would hand over £20,000 cash in person rather than by money transfer – their preferred route.

In return, I was to receive a commission of £15 million for assisting them to get some monstrous amount of money out of the country.

The young woman looked at my briefcase. I handed it over. "Here's the money – when will I get my millions?"

I asked, barely holding in my laughter. The woman said the doctor would be in touch. He made contact shortly after the handover. He had received only Monopoly money and wasn't happy.

No arrests were made, but we did put one face to an international scam – a rare triumph.

Everyone is at risk

Never before have people been so vulnerable to fraud. We are realistically just a couple of clicks away from losing our bank balances to fake websites or any number of fraudsters targeting everything from eBay to dating websites.

The frustrating thing is that there is an endless number of scams and very little investigative work being done to put the perpetrators in jail.

The number of attempted frauds, from phone calls to web scams and identity fraud, is so extensive it seems like a losing battle.

One police force said that it didn't investigate internet frauds unless sums in excess of £1 million were involved, but most scams are for much smaller sums.

That is a situation we cannot accept. We can fight back, and in this column we will take the fight to the fraudsters and the regulators alike.

We will shout from the rooftops for more online protection for consumers, both from the government and from all the major online players. When I was working undercover with drug dealers and gangsters I played a long game.

I expect this fight against fraudsters and scammers will last for a long time too, and I ask you for your help in identifying them and halting them in their tracks.

Join me and Moneywise in our crusade to protect you: have you been scammed or have you had your suspicions aroused by cold callers probing for personal details?

Let us know by dropping me a line at the following email address... 

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I got involved with a boiler room scam ,Mitschka Advisory, THE SCAMMERS. after a fsa warning I reported to city of london police ,giving details of shares invested in and bank transfer's their bank accounts, share changes . full details sent to them in jan 2010. In march 2010 ,having been told by the scammers in december that my money had been invested in a belgium company Prestige Property Portfolio see online for proof , the share certificate arrived ,and was authenticated as a legal share cert..this I reported to city of london police. I had written email, conformation and also the company is in the process of an I,P,O. being told by city of london police ,its out of their jurisdiction,and although in europe they have NO powers.
The only way forward with this is to visit Belgium with my shares and demand from the owner a cash settlement Unless there's another way ?
I invested £8,000 first , and then with profits into PPP @2.89EURO'S per share
and as it stands the shares are claimed to be worth 7-10 EUROS. 25,000-36,000 euros, OR NIL.

Same thing happened to me. Instead of Mitschka read Forst. There is a Hub Pages reference gained by typing the full phrase FORST FINANCE AG. It was supposed to have been bought by a Russian tycoon and we were to get 5X our investment paying 5% commission up front; others have also had 'Russian tax demands'.

The route was to invest a little bit in Los Alamos Gold, then sell these and into Norseman, to which I added, then briefly into ROC then into PPP

I too was involved with a scam company-jefferson hunt-,&invested in 2 american companies. When j.h. vanished i wrote to the money handling company in america. I eventually received a reply denying knowledge of j.h. but saying i was in fact invested in PPP and that a share certificate would arrive in the near future--which it did! I suspect it is probably worthless.

Hi Ian
Don't suppose you've had any luck in retrieving any of your money as i have just been hit by a similar scam and am currently sat here staring at a share certificate in PPP............?
Best wishes
Martin Holleran

I too have PPP share cert. Anyone been succesful in recovering their funds?

I too have share cert for ppp, any info anyone???