South African investigators said Friday they had arrested a gang of suspected Internet racketeers who fooled people into sending them money by posing as the central bank.



The elite Scorpions investigation unit of South Africa’s public prosecutors arrested 19 people, mostly foreigners, in raids connected with the scam.


“They set up a Web page that looked very much like the central bank Web site, but had nothing to do with it whatsoever,” said Gerhald Nell, spokesman for the Scorpions.



The gang had contacted the victims and referred them to the Web site to support their story. “The Web site gave the scheme legitimacy,” Nell said.



He could not confirm how much money was involved but a police spokesman said the figure could run into millions of rand (hundreds of thousands of dollars).



Nell said the gang had diverted phone calls and created fictitious email addresses to dupe its targets.



“Typically, you would receive an email saying ‘I have $10 million available, and I need an account to put it in,’ and promising to give you a commission in exchange,” Nell said.



He said the victims would then be asked for advance payments to cover insurance fees and the costs of releasing the money. “You would deposit these, but never see your money back,” he added.

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