The white knight Nigerian prince
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Internet fraud has been around for decades, but now it seems that it could afflict the most industrious of us.
We've all been there before, an email inbox clogged with a seemingly unending queue of Nigerian princes looking for some generous soul to help him move his newly-acquired £20 million haul.
As the story of how they gained their newfound wealth becomes more and more elaborate and unbelievable, one hopes that the days of people being duped into handing over a £1,000-odd 'goodwill' payment to get the ball rolling are over.
However, it seems that the SME community is now bearing the brunt of Nigerian internet fraudsters, and in particular those already hard-up and in need of cash.
Business advisory firm Kroll has uncovered a new scam involving untrustworthy individuals who are posing as investment companies and offering to provide funds in exchange for a downpayment to secure the offer.
Kroll says that when the hoped-for investment predictably fails to arrive, burned SMEs then contact the real investment company that fraudsters have been posing as, only to be told that no such deal has taken place.
Stefano Demichelis, associate managing director at Kroll Advisory Solutions, warns, 'Approaches via networking websites, emails from webmail addresses, unprompted emails that appear to be from CEOs of large multinational companies are offering “too good to be true” opportunities that companies should be aware of.
'Individual losses are often too low for law enforcement agencies to act. In addition, these scams involve multiple jurisdictions making it a costly and potentially a futile exercise to obtain disclosure orders.'
This journalist himself has been privy to this kind of underhanded skullduggery. Earlier this month I was contacted by the seemingly honest Chan Lang who wanted to tell me all about the large loans that could be secured, without any collateral, to help with the building of a fledgling business.
Mr (or Ms) Lang couldn't believe the deal he/she had received whereby €100,000 was transferred into their account to found a new supermarket.
Quick to point out the fact that they had been apprehensive about having to pay an application fee and then had to open a new bank account for the balance to be paid into, Lang finishes by saying, 'It could also work for anyone, as long as you are aspiring to establish a genuine business.'
Let's face it, which budding entrepreneur isn't trying to build a 'genuine' business.
The fact of the matter is that capital, be it debt or equity, is becoming increasingly hard to secure, especially on favourable terms. Entrepreneurs and business builders the nation and world over now have to turn to alternative forms of capital such as asset-based lending, crowdfunding or equity swaps to fund growth.
And as the engines of growth that have been charged with rejuvenating our country’s economy, let’s hope that it is only a few that are unceremoniously tripped before they’ve even got started.