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Flat Earth: Give us the money

Unsuspecting South Africans, sheltered both from good and bad during apartheid, have begun falling foul of the classic Bush letter scam. The South African version begins: "I am Dr Willson Mbeki, former chairman of the Trust Fund Committee of the South African National Congress (ANC) where I served for eight years before retiring with [sic] Nelson Mandela's administration."

Mention of Mbeki, Mandela and the ANC sounds impressive. But the letter goes on to ask for the use of the recipient's bank account for the transfer of $60m "currently kept in a security firm", and stuck in Nigeria due to exchange controls.

But as anyone knows the letter is just another stab at making a quick buck out of people's gullibility. What usually happens is that the victim is stung for "legal fees" in advance of the transfer, which never happens. Sometimes the outcome is violent: last week police rescued a Soweto man who was being held for a $500,000 ransom after responding to a letter.