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Spanish version of Nigerian money scam hits Ontario

Lesley Ciarula Taylor
 Staff Reporter

As a target for inheritance fraudsters, George Ryan is a gross miscalculation: He’s a

retired computer programmer who “can recognize a scam a mile off.”

So when the St. Catharines man received a stamped, official-looking letter from a lawyer in

Spain offering to split a $7.8 million inheritance, he was savvy enough to Google his way to

the truth.

What he found was the Spanish inheritance scam is the latest twist in the Nigerian-

inheritance-stranded-help-me-move money scam and it’s running riot across Canada.

“These guys are actually Nigerian,” Ryan told the Star.

Dozens of Canadians, many from southern Ontario, have posted similar inheritance offers by

letter or email in recent months to Scam Shield, a long-established investigative website

that encourages potential scam victims to share details.

“Yes, this is likely a form of Nigerian 4-1-9 Fraud,” Scam Shield’s Jim Smith told the Star.

“4-1-9” refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud.

“This fraud scheme was so successful in bilking millions of dollars annually from victims

that the perpetrators have worked hard to find creative new angles to fool people. They can

represent themselves as government officials, bank officials, or attorneys.

“They will give the victim the impression that money is on the way to their bank account,

and the transactions will always be held up by a progression of ever-increasing fees, which,

of course, they will ask the victim to pay.

“The people behind this scheme is a large network that began in Africa, but they may well be

relocated to new countries.”

The latest Spanish iteration uses phone numbers with the country code 34 and the first

number 6, denoting a Spanish mobile phone, Ryan said.

A man answering as “Barrister Alberto Luis Menendez” assured the Star that he has $12.75

million in “Canadian dollars” to give away and was sending emails in the hopes of finding

anyone interested.

He declined to answer specific questions, including whether he had any connection to

Alejandro Mendez Casillas, another “Spanish barrister” uncovered by Scam Shield.

In many cases, the emails and letters say they represent a “relative killed in the Tsunami

catastrophe on 27 December 2004.”

The letter to Ryan arrived on “very official letterhead” of Madrid law firm Crespo legal

services, he said. The firm responded by email, however, that it had nothing to do with the

letter, which had offered to “put (Ryan) up as the relative and split the money 50-50.”

The letter “had a Spanish stamp and everything,” said Ryan. “My wife thought this was


It represents a more sophisticating fishing expedition for victims, Scam Shield said. A

recent mathematical research analysis of such scams explained that the typical unbelievable

“Nigerian scam” works precisely because it seems unbelievable.
Microsoft researcher Cormac Herley’s analysis found that Nigerian scams call themselves

Nigerian scams not because they are foolish, but because it automatically weeds out all but

the most gullible for maximum efficiency.

“If it looks too good to be true, it is,” said Ryan, who posted his experience to Scam

Shield as a warning for the less computer savvy.




June 27, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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