Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Internet Scam Hits Wildlife Charity

23 March, 2004 - 00:00 -- World Land Trust

The so-called 'Nigerian Frauds' are well known to most internet users. The recipient gets an email offering them a percentage of huge sums of money that are being smuggled abroad by the family of a deposed dictator, crooked bank official or similar person. There are many variations, but they all play on the inherent greed in many people - and if they get caught many are reluctant to inform the police and admit their stupidity. But the latest scam is even meaner. It is a cleverly thought out attack on charities.

First of all the targeted charity (in this case the World Land Trust) receives an email purporting to come from a representative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Direct Impact Grant Program, saying they would like to consider the charity for its next round of funding. These sort of approaches are not so unusual as to raise any suspicions, and the request to send copies of recent accounts, new projects, address of our website etc. made it even more realistic. And of course the Gates Foundation has the reputation of dishing out substantial grants. So we sent off our application, and received a standard acknowledgment by return, which is what one would expect. We thought little more about it until earlier this week, when an email came in informing us that we had been awarded $5million. Immediately the penny dropped, and we realised it was a scam.

In order to make sure we didn't fall for a scam of this sort in the future we spent a bit of time checking it out. The email awarding the grant directed us to a website, which has no phone numbers, and the only address is a PO Box number in Swindon, and no company of that name or similar registered with Companies House, all of which are highly suspicious. A quick call to the Metropolitan Police Fraud Squad confirmed that it was a known scam. But the worry is that some charities might get caught - and would they report it since it could get them into serious trouble to admit they had been caught. The World Land Trust is a relatively sophisticated internet user, and one of the few charities raising a significant part of its income from the internet. There is a concern then, for smaller, more naive charities who are not geared up to deal with situations like this. So far it appears that little publicity has been given to this scam aimed at the charity sector.

For further information about the World Land Trust contact John A Burton jab*at* (To avoid spam, we cannot show the email address in full. Please replace *at* with the symbol @ in your email address field.)
For information on Nigerian Fraud visit 

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