Monday, December 04, 2006

Nigerian Money Scam Claims High-profile Indian

Along comes news that Manubhai Shah of Consumer Education and Research Center (CERC) has been sacked for his invovement in the Nigerian money scam. I feel sad.

When I was Executive Secretary of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) I had depended a lot on CERC to prove the validity of claims made by advertisements. If, for example, a company claims, in their advertisement, that their fairness cream can whiten (actually I haven't tested this on me, dark as I am) skin in a week, and if a complaint was logdged with ASCI, the complaints committee used send the product for verification to CERC.

Now CERC founded by Manubhai Shah was, and I suppose still is, impartial and turns in a dependable verdict from their laboratories after testing the claim. It was trusted by a lot of organizations and in some case even by the government.

Anyone familiar with the Internet knows what the Nigeria money scam is. A rich Nigerian has died without a will and his lawyer or widow needs someone to transfer the money running in millions of dollars. They need you to only pay around Rs 50 lakhs to claim what would be $ 5 million. Greedily, you take out the calculator and calculate, as I am doing now! Whoa! Rs 22 crores for nothing.

My inbox is flooded daily by these emails which I know is a scam from the very language used. The following is such a scam letter from one supposedly Anita Jone-Moktar that I fished out from my deleted files just now:

"I do recognised the surprise this letter will bring to you, most especially as it comes from a stranger. I am Anita Jones-Moktar. We are from Sao Tome. I am married to Dr. Mohammad Moktar who was a wealthy cocoa merchant in Ivory Coast for years before he died in the year 2004. We were married for eleven years without a child. He died after a brief illness that lasted for only two weeks. Before his death we were both faithful Muslim. Since his death I decided not to remarry or get a child outside my matrimonial home which the holly Quaran is against. When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of  $4.8Million U.S. Dollars) with the securitycompany here in Abidjan Presently, the fund is still with the security company. Recently, my Doctor told me that I have serious sickness which is cancer problem. The one that disturbs me most is my stroke sickness."

So since Anita wanted to get married again and suddenly finds that she is dying she wants to give me this $ 4.8 million only if I give her the processing fees of around $ 100,000 which would be around Rs 45 lakhs. Nicely put. Do you believe it? I believed a similar scam sometime ago and landed up in a nicely created mess that has me and a certain other person fuming even now. Leave that unmentionable incident alone. I was too immature and new to the ways of the wired world.

This Anita Jones-Moktar would turn around after receiving the money and disappear. But some people unused to the ways of the Internet are vulnerable, yes, even Manubhai Shah. Why, if I have, you could be the next one, so beware.

Manubhai Shah, the doyen of the consumer movement in India, the once championed icon, fell for this trap and gave the agent Rs 32 lakhs from CERC's money and around Rs 10 lakhs of his own. He even borrowed money from well wishers in the US of A to pay these scamsters. He was soon discovered and had to resign from the chairmanship of the organization he himself founded, and is being investigated for fraud.

Tough luck, Manubhai Shah!


vadakkan said...

how could anyone with atleast a little of bit of intelligence fall for a scam like this? But you are right -- people do fall for it. This person was able to collect 50 Lakhs for this scam. He could have just used that to retire. Thats approximately 1 Lakh per year for 50 years. :)

John said...

Hi Vadakkan,

The man who was duped, Manubhai Shah is the Ralph Nader and the protector of consumers, imagine that!


vadakkan said...

It seems like most people live by "Do as I say and not as I do" standards. You see this everyday - some dude will become popular for something, the public will praise him and raise him up to god standards and then boom..they will do something that will bring them back down to human standards - in some cases lower than human standards.