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Ugandan "plea for help" scam

Hand holding brown paper parcel, with the words disaster relief written on it in front of a globe.Western Australians are again being targeted by what must be one of the most heinous scams to come out of Africa.

The Ugandan-based scam attempts to swindle money in the guise of assisting destitute orphans or sick children.

WA ScamNet and Consumer Protection have previously warned consumers about similar shakedowns emanating from various locations in Africa, with the common theme of these scams being an appeal to people's kind-heartedness and generosity.

Hand written letters supposedly from orphaned children in Uganda tell stories of terrible hardship including violence, starvation and death, beseeching the reader to send money in the name of God.

Documents accompanying these letters include school reports and details on employment prospects aimed at convincing the reader of the need for the money in order for the orphans to make a better life for themselves and further their education.

The emails ask for $US896 in school fees and claim they have gotten your name from an Australian who visited the local church or school.

The scammers even masquerade as the local church minister, school principal or registrar to “verify” the existence of the orphan or educational institution.

Another twist on this scam is requests to contribute money to pay for an operation for a sick child such as heart surgery. Again, the scam may include supporting “documentation” including phoney medical reports.

If you respond to these scams, you are likely to get further requests for money to assist the child.

Similar scams have been received elsewhere in the world and have the potential of reaping a lot of ill-gotten gains because of general worldwide sympathy to the plight of people in third world countries.

These scams should not deter people from supporting the many legitimate aid organisations that exist because they play a important role in helping to provide care and resources for our less fortunate international neighbours.

Always thoroughly investigate any organisation seeking financial support and, if in doubt, contact WA ScamNet.