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Deals you'd be wise to delete

If you spend any time online, then chances are you've recently received an e-mail (or 12) from any one of a number of West African chaps, many of them claiming to run government ministries.

Their authors urgently describe some injustice that has left them holding tens of millions of dollars in cash or gold. Then they ask for your "bank particulars" – all they need to shelter the funds in your account for a while.

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For your trouble, you'll get a cut.

It is, of course, an update on the Brooklyn Bridge ruse: Those who bite are persuaded to lay out their own money to get the transaction started, and are left holding air.

The Nigerian scheme has been around for years, but the efficiency of the Web may have boosted it.

Most complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission are still about firms and individuals based in the US, says Pablo Zylberglait, legal adviser for the international division of consumer protection of the Federal Trade Commission – an arm created early this month.

(The FTC also just launched econsumer.gov, a site aimed at cross-border scams.)

"[But] it's generally understood that fraud increasingly has a cross-border component to it," says Mr. Zylberglait. The FTC, he says, has had a "significant" number of complaints regarding parties based abroad – in Canada, Romania, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom.

International cooperation is growing, but enforcement is hard, especially when the Web is used.

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"These cases require us to work more effectively with our overseas counterparts," says Eric Wenger, who chairs an Internet coordinating committee at the FTC. "A lot of countries," he adds, "don't have a direct counterpart."

Your best defense? Delete.


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