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Tax collector falls for Nigerian scam -- at work

Posted by Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun on 2005/08/22 | Views: 319 |

Tax collector falls for Nigerian scam -- at work


Yet when a federal tax collector in B.C. -- someone you might expect to have a bit of financial savvy -- received an e-mail from Nigeria advising him that someone had left him a huge inheritance, he didn't smell a rat.

VANCOUVER I It's probably the most infamous scam of our time.

Yet when a federal tax collector in B.C. -- someone you might expect to have a bit of financial savvy -- received an e-mail from Nigeria advising him that someone had left him a huge inheritance, he didn't smell a rat.

"Although he did not know of any relationship [he had] to anyone in Nigeria, the documents looked realistic and the inheritance was tempting," according to a review of the matter by the Canada Revenue Agency's Internal Affairs Division.

Like thousands of suckers before him, the tax collector was encouraged to send the Nigerian scammers a fee before they transferred the inheritance to his account -- an inheritance, of course, that never materialized.

His misfortune probably would have ended there had it not been for one important detail: He had communicated with the Nigerians almost entirely from his government office.

The problem first came to light in early 2004 when the tax collectors' supervisor stumbled across documents relating to the Nigerian scam in his in-tray.

A subsequent review of his phone records by CRA investigators found that, over a two-year period, he had made more than 130 long-distance phone calls to Nigeria and another 63 calls to neighbouring Benin.

A search of his office computer turned up 187 e-mails relating to the Nigerian scam.

And he had sent several faxes -- using Revenue Canada letterhead -- to the scammers.

The CRA's report on the incident was obtained by The Vancouver Sun through the Access to Information Act.

The tax collector -- whose name was deleted in the copy provided to The Sun -- was interviewed by investigators on Aug. 25, 2004.

According to an account of that interview, the collector said he "had never heard of a Nigerian bank scam and therefore did not seek the assistance of the police."

The large volume of phone calls and e-mails to the scammers, he explained, were due to his failed attempts to get back the money he had already sent.

"After sending money to the operators, it became more difficult to cease communications as he hoped to [recoup] what he had invested," the report states.

The report does not say how much money he lost in the scam.

The collector said "he realized it was wrong to place these calls from the workplace but he could not afford long distance charges to his cellular telephone."

The report reveals that the CRA's concerns about the incident went well beyond long-distance bills.

"By using government telecommunication and electronic systems to conduct his personal business, [the tax collector] exposed the CRA address, contact telephone numbers, e-mail address, and his position, to potential abuse by parties of criminal repute," it states.

As a collections officer for the CRA -- someone who phones taxpayers who are in arrears -- the collector had access to government databases that contained the names, phone numbers and personal financial information of taxpayers.

The report gives no indication, however, that he accessed the database on behalf of the Nigerian scammers.

CRA spokeswoman Kareen Dionne refused to say Tuesday what, if any, disciplinary measures were taken against the tax collector but said he still works for the agency.

cskelton@png.canwest.com

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.