International fraudsters are using e-mail as a new way of attempting to swindle professionals by offering them partnerships in bogus business deals, the police and Law Society warned yesterday. The scams, which appear to originate from West Africa and particularly Nigeria, have been a cause of concern since the early 1990s. But the fraudsters are now using 'spam' e-mails to attract potential victims. Victims are invited to join lucrative business deals, often involving the laundering of money, but are asked to pay fees in advance to facilitate the transaction. Once the money has been paid, it is pocketed by the fraudsters. Among those targeted recently have been several lawyers, who received e-mails inviting them to take part in bogus deals. The Law Society put out a circular to its members yesterday, warning them to pass all information on to the Commercial Crime Bureau (CCB). 'These fraudsters are attempting a more sophisticated approach by using e-mail and faxes. The CCB examines all reports of advance-fee fraud and takes follow-up action in appropriate cases,' said the circular. 'If any people receive unsolicited cold-call mail shots by e-mail or fax, details should be sent to the CCB.' Patrick Moss, society secretary-general, said the solicitors who received e-mails had not been fooled. But he added: 'It is a bit of a concern that someone gullible might [be].' Mr Moss said: 'This has happened before. There had been a quiet period for 18 months or two years and it has now started again, using e-mail.' One of the e-mails brought to his attention claims to be from a barrister working in the Nigerian Legal Department who has a client needing a foreign partner in an investment proposal. It said: 'I understand that you are a member of our noble profession, hence the need for this contact.' Another purported to be from a Nigerian bank manager who wanted help in switching more than US$34 million (HK$260 million) said to have belonged to a late former president of Zaire. Senior Inspector David Cope, of the CCB's intelligence section, warned the public to look out for e-mails, faxes or letters offering similar deals. 'They are now using spam e-mails. It is the same basic scam, but they are using different means to get access to potential victims,' he said. The fraudsters do not even have to visit the SAR. 'That is the beauty of it. You could have your e-mail account from a US Internet service provider. You could be sitting in London, have a colleague in Lagos, the money going to Malaysia, and the victim in Hong Kong. It is a very well-organised scam.' Mr Cope said: 'We are getting complaints from accountants, lawyers, bankers and shippers, anybody whose name shows up in a trade journal with an e-mail address. Anyone who receives one of them, please do not answer it, not even to tell people to go away.'