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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 23:53 GMT 00:53 UK
Nigerian e-mail frauds targeted
Dollars by a keyboard
Nigeria is blamed for most of the e-mail scams
Microsoft and the government of Nigeria have joined forces to crack down on e-mail scams, many of which are known to originate from the African country.

In the most common type of fraud, e-mail recipients are asked to pay a fee in return for a much larger sum of money - which they never receive.

The new agreement involves training and sharing information.

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is currently investigating hundreds of suspects.

Nuhu Ribadi, executive chairman of EFCC, welcomed the partnership.

"They (Microsoft) will help us with one of the difficult areas, particularly when it comes to technology, and we will do the physical work of enforcement," he told the BBC.

"We have worked with them for the last six months now, and as a result of the work we have done, we are now going to bring a couple of companies to justice. Some people are being prosecuted right now."

'Generous' reward

The Nigerian government is also considering making spamming a criminal offence punishable with jail terms of up to three years.

The EFCC says that many of the fraudsters have fled the country and are now based abroad, mainly in Spain and the Netherlands, making it more difficult for the Nigerian authorities to prosecute them.

In the most common e-mail scam, criminals send out millions of e-mails asking people to pay an advance fee or give their bank account details to help move large sums of money abroad.

In return, they are promised they will receive a share of it.

Mr Ribadi advises recipients of such scam letters not to reply, but to forward them to law enforcement authorities in their own country who, in their turn, will forward the messages to the EFCC.

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