Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
4 minute read
21 Apr 2021
7:40 pm

Here’s how Tokyo Sexwale can avoid being a 419 ‘scam victim’

Ina Opperman

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If you are offered an unrealistic business opportunity worth billions, you are probably a victim of a classic 419 scam.

Businessman and former Cabinet minister Tokyo Sexwale. Picture: Gallo Images/Sowetan/Alaister Russell

 

Just when you wondered if 419 scams were still around, a well-known South African falls for a scam on national television.

Businessman and former Cabinet minister Tokyo Sexwale was not the first and he will not be the last to be taken in by online scams.

ALSO READ: Sexwale’s young partner is a bit of a lady of mystery

While Sexwale fell for the White Spiritual Boy Trust scam, run by a Mr Clark Leong Boey claiming to be based in Singapore, the modus operandi is the same: from the terrible English used in documents to the overuse of capitals. And of course the billions of US dollars.

Even just searching for White Spiritual Boy Trust online brings up about 33 million results. After reading some of the results, it is quite clear that it is a scam. It could only be, with almost a trillion rand in the game.

Here is another one

One of the latest scams doing the rounds is in the form of an email that goes:

Good Day,

I work as the Accountant and Auditor Manager in a bank here in South Africa; I have a very confidential business proposition for you.

There is an unclaimed huge funds in our bank that belongs to a foreign customer whom died with his entire family of the covid-19 pandemic.

I am seeking for your good collaboration to transfer the funds to you as the immediate relative for our both benefit, and also to help they needy during these trying times.

Kindly get back to me once you have read this mail and if you’re interested, so I shall send to you more relevant details.

Please send your reply to my private Email address: mrralphnicholas@alabamasoilclassifiers.org

Yours Sincerely.

Mr.Ralph Nicholas.(sic)

Reserve Bank

The South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) says it often gets requests and calls for assistance from people who were victims of “advance fee fraud” scams, known as “419” or “Nigerian letter” scams. This kind of fraud is called ‘4-1-9’ after the section of the Nigerian penal code that addresses fraud schemes.

While the Sarb has been working with the South African Police Service to stop these scams, people are still falling for them.

ALSO READ: Gogo conned out of R450 billion in phone scam

They not only lose large amounts of money, but become part of the illicit economy where the money is invariably used to buy drugs for resale to the public or financing terrorist activities in various countries.

How these scams work

According to the Sarb, the scammers usually start with a letter, email, SMS, a social networking site or faxed document that informs the potential victims that they will receive a large percentage of a sizeable amount of funds, usually in dollars (and usually millions) if they can help to get the money.

The money is usually part of an inheritance, over-budgeted contract payment or lottery winnings. The message stresses that confidentiality must be maintained at all times and as soon as you respond, the scam begins.

Once the perpetrator receives a positive response to the initial letter, he will ask for your banking details, passport and ID number, as well as various other personal details. He will keep communicating with you until the final details of how and when these millions of dollars will be exchanged are agreed upon.

ALSO READ: Financial scams – how to avoid becoming a victim

At this stage, he will send you authentic-looking documents, allegedly signed by influential people, such as the governor or any of the deputy governors of the Sarb with the logo of the Sarb, confirming that the millions of dollars are awaiting transfer to your nominated bank account.

Now you have to start paying up if you wish to see all these dollars. The scammer will ask you to advance money to get the alleged clearance documents, such as anti-money laundering and tax clearance certificates. After you pay the required fees, he will ask for more fees.

Now you are between the devil and the deep blue sea: you lose the original fees you paid or you can pay more fees in the hope of a bigger payoff. This is how thousands of rands (or dollars) are swindled from unsuspecting victims. The payoff, of course, never happens, because the money was never there to begin with.

Meetings are often arranged to sign the documents and if you are unable to go, a “lawyer” or “barrister” is appointed for you and you have to pay for this person’s services too. As soon as your bank account is empty, the lines of communication are abandoned and you have no way of recovering the lost funds.

How to spot a 419 scam

  • The scam email will emphasise confidentiality and “risk-free” transactions
  • The source of the money sounds too good to be true
  • The amount is unrealistic
  • The letter often, but not always, contains grammatical errors.

READ MORE: Beware of online coronavirus scams