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Netherlands office in Taipei warns of foreign Internet scams

International con artists have extended their operations to Taiwan via the Internet and the public is advised to exercise extra cautions over e-mail messages promising hefty sums of money, the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office (NTIO) in Taipei cautioned yesterday.

According to the NTIO, the Netherlands's de facto embassy in Taiwan, at least two local residents have fallen victim to the "Advance Fee Fraud," or the "419 Fraud" schemes, which originated from Nigeria.

Both victims were contacted by con artists via e-mails and were promised large amount of money in reward if they wired certain advance payments or service charges to bank accounts in Holland. Of course the rewards never arrived and some of the victims eventually reported the scams to the NTIO.

"Since some time various e-mail fraud schemes have been operating from the Netherlands causing various people great losses. The Netherlands has closed down one such scheme but others still exist," said Henk H.J. Nouwens, deputy representative of the NTIO.

The Dutch National Criminal Intelligence Service's Fraud Department has intensified its worldwide investigation on 419 Fraud with the release of a report form earlier this month.

"The Netherlands Government is requesting victims to report their information so they can take action," Nouwens said.

The NTIO stressed that all reports will be kept confidential by the office and the information will be forwarded directly to Dutch judicial authorities.

According to a fraud warning issued by the Dutch government, a reported 20.6 million euros were swindled in 2002 in the country alone, a significant rise from 8.9 million euros in 2001. Yet the figures only reflected the tip of the iceberg of the fraudulent practices, as only about 10 percent of the victims were willing to go to the police.

Victims of 419 Fraud typically received emails from self-proclaimed government or bank officials in foreign countries requesting their assistance in the release of funds from an inheritance or lottery prize. And they were promised handsome rewards if they remit an advance sum of money required for the transaction of funds.

Most of the con artists operate out of West Africa, particularly Nigeria, but a growing number of lottery scams have been reported from the Netherlands, the fraud warning said.

In 2002, 28 criminals who had snatched 2.1 million euros via advance fee scams were arrested in Holland, and six Nigerians were sentenced to between two and four years in prison in 2003.

Dutch authorities urged victims of the 419 Fraud to come forward. A report form can be requested from the NTIO.

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