Nigerian scam takes this year's 'Pie in the Sky' award

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Nigerian scam takes this year's 'Pie in the Sky' award

A ‘Nigerian letter’ scam has won this year’s annual ASIC ‘Pie in the Sky’ award for the most outrageous offer that was too good to be true.

The email letter claimed to be from a lawyer in the Togolese Republic handling the US$17 million estate of a man who died in the Boxing Day Tsunami in Phuket three years ago. The lawyer promised to share the wealth with the email recipient after a fee was paid into an account to cover expenses involved in the transfer. This type of scam is known as an advanced fee fraud where people are lured into paying money and receive nothing in return.

ASIC’s acting executive director of Consumer Protection, Delia Rickard said the email was nothing more than a cleverly crafted scam.

“Of course, there was no $17 million estate, and people were being scammed for the upfront fees,” she said.

Coming a close second was Instep Super, an unlicensed superannuation scheme run by a single person that promised up to a 20 percent return on investment. ASIC launched an investigation into Instep and concluded that its claims to be the “best performing superannuation fund in Australia” were misleading, deceptive and unfounded.

Rounding out third place this year was Energy Recycling Solutions, manufacturer of 'The Electroharvest'. This device supposedly recycled “ambient electromagnetic radiation back into usable household energy” to cut power bills by 37 percent. The Electrohouse website was actually created by ASIC on April Fool’s Day last year to demonstrate how easy it is for scammers to create legitimate looking websites promising easy returns on investment. People were invited to invest up to $40,000 with a guaranteed return of at least 30 percent. If they chose to invest they were taken to a page with ASIC’s advice on how to avoid scam investment offers.
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