Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
Abuja - Nigeria and the American software giant Microsoft have formed an alliance to combat the Internet fraudsters who have damaged the country's international image, Nigeria's anti-graft agency said on Tuesday.
"Millions of people all over the world can only link the country and her nationals to the infamous scam letter," said Nuhu Ribadu, chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in a statement released here.
"EFCC and Microsoft have teamed up to fish out Internet fraudsters in Nigeria and the West African sub-region," he said.
Computer users across the world have become accustomed to being bombarded by emails from Nigerians seeking to trick them into handing over bank details or making advance payments on non-existent money-making schemes.
Experts say that the so-called 419 fraudsters - named after the relevant section in Nigeria's criminal code - steal hundreds of millions of dollars every year from unsuspecting marks.
In the biggest such case to date, a Brazilian bank collapsed after Nigerian confidence tricksters persuaded a corrupt employee to divert $242-million of his employer's capital into an imaginary deal to develop Abuja airport.
Microsoft markets the most popular computer programmes controlling access to the Internet, and Nigeria hopes that after signing a deal with the company in London at the weekend, the firm will help it track scammers, who now face stiffer laws at home.
The Nigerian parliament recently passed the stringent "Advance Fee Fraud Act 2005", which holds liable not only the fraudster but also cybercafe owners and office managers who allow their premises and facilities to be used for the crime.
President Olusegun Obasanjo has proposed an amendment to the act to make it a crime for scammers - who are known in Nigeria as "Yahoo-Yahoo boys" after the popular free email service - to send unsolicited messages. - Sapa-AFP