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Zille warns of ‘419’ scam

Cape Town -

DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille is the latest in a long line of politicians and prominent people whose names have been used in an online scam.

DA leader Helen Zille is the latest in a long line of prominent people to have their names used in an online scam. File picture: David Ritchie. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

On Tuesday, Zille warned her followers on social media of a scam using her name.

On Twitter she wrote: “419 scam alert: someone is using my name as a ruse to raise money, via a ‘judge’ in the UK who has an ‘agent’ in SA. Don’t fall for it.”

A message on her official Facebook page on Thursday said that someone had posted a fake account in her name on the social media site and was using it to ask people for money.

She urged people not to fall for the scam.

The fake account was later blocked.

“At least 10” people contacted her office to say they had been affected by the scam, according to Zille’s chief of staff, Geordin Hill-Lewis.

“One or two of them had unfortunately lost money,” he said.

“We reported the matter to Facebook. We sent each of the complaints we received to Facebook and asked Facebook to close the fake page.”

Hill-Lewis warned members of the public to be wary of people trying to use Zille’s name for scams.

Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of the World Wide Worx technology research organisation, said this type of scam was “as old as the internet itself”.

The 419 scam is named after the article of the Nigerian criminal code that deals with such crimes.

Goldstuck said the perpetrators of this kind of scam had long used the names of government officials to persuade people to part with their bank account details or a small deposit to show good faith in exchange for the promise of lots of money.

But most of the 419 messages were elaborate, poorly written and made little sense.

The scams ensnared only a tiny fraction of people, but so many of the messages were sent that the perpetrators needed to dupe only 0.01 percent of their targets for the venture to be highly profitable.

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