Risk management consultants Hill and Associates released a warning to their clients to beware of the scam that claims to be led by a former minister in Saddam Hussein's government.

 

The warning said the "former Iraqi minister" informs the recipients that he has money in banks that he wants to launder with the assistance of businessmen who respond.

  

"The deal usually involves an offer to transfer millions of dollars into the victim's personal bank account," it said.

 

Hill and Associates country manager Craig Foster said the scam generally starts in business cyber chat rooms where the potential victims are lured in with the promise of money.

  

From the chat rooms, the supposed ex-Iraqi minister begins a direct e-mail relationship with his prospective business partners. The potential victim is then asked for banking and other personal information, including copies of official stationery, blank invoices and bank statements.

  

Global spread

 

Hill and Associates political risk analyst Bruce Gale said the scam also sometimes plays on religious sentiments, with the appeal being made from one Muslim brother to another. The scam hit East Asia a few weeks ago, with Hill and Associates first coming across it in the booming Chinese city of Shanghai.

 

Foster said the problem turned into a global issue early this month, prompting close attention from United States intelligence agencies.

  

He said the scam had appeared throughout Northeast Asia, although Hill and Associates was unaware whether anyone had lost any money yet.

  

He said the Iraqi scheme was similar to the infamous Nigerian Internet scams that have plagued cyberspace for years.

  

In the Nigerian scams, bank accounts are cleaned out soon after the victims  hand over their private details over the Internet.