Officials in Alberta and Saskatchewan are investigating three people for allegedly scamming thousands of dollars in a so-called Nigerian letter scam.

The Saskatchewan Financial Services Commission has issued a cease-trade order against a Saskatchewan man, two men from Calgary and a Calgary compnay.

The commission issued the order after a Saskatoon man lost $150,000.

Police in Calgary and Saskatoon have launched their own investigations.

The scam has been around for years and crops up in different forms around the world. In the scam, letters are sent by mail, e-mail or fax to potential victims from a person pretending to be a government official of an African country, usually Nigeria.

The victim is strung along as the scammer keeps asking for money to pay off government officials to transfer the funds or to pay bank and customs fees from $10,000 to $100,000.

Det. Tim Potter of Calgary says one of the men has been charged with one count each of fraud over $5,0000 and uttering a forged document.

The Calgary investigation was spurred by a bank that was allegedly defrauded of more than $500,000.

"There's been some recovery of funds, but there's still a great deal that has not been recovered," says Potter.

Vic Pankratz, deputy director of the Saskatchewan Financial Commission's enforcement branch, says people would be wary of any scheme that:

  • promises unusually large returns
  • requires money be sent out of the country
  • requires secrecy
  • allows someone else access to your bank account

"Hardly a week goes by that we don't receive a copy from the general public of a Nigerian letter solicitation," says Pankratz.