Big Nigerian scams intended for UK foiled

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LONDON, Oct 4 (Reuters) Nigerian financial scams which aimed to con Britons out of millions of pounds have been foiled, police said today.

More than 4,500 documents, including fake cheques and postal orders as well as passports, were seized following the month-long operation by British and Nigerian authorities.

The documents, worth a potential 8 million pounds, were believed to be destined for the UK, and were intended to defraud Britons through emails.

Mass marketing fraud is calculated to be worth an annual 3.5 billion pounds and is carried out by organised criminal gangs, according to the Office of Fair Trading.

Common scams centre on an advance fee, where prizes or large sums of money are offered, but to access them, the victim is asked to pay a small fee.

Sometimes the victims receive the promised money in the form of a cheque, but discover it is fake after paying the fee.

The bulk of the financial instruments discovered in Nigeria were intended for London, followed by the Northwest and Southeast.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) said intelligence gathered during the operation has been shared with the City of London police and the Metropolitan police.

Search warrants have been executed and arrests have been made in the UK, but no further details were available.

Mike Haley, Office of Fair Trading head of consumer protection, said: ''Scammers are always coming up with new ways to make money, and fake cheques are a useful weapon in their armoury.

''However much you want or need the cash that they promise, it's important to be very wary about cheques you receive from people you don't know -- they could leave you much worse off in the end.'' REUTERS JK KN1618

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