BUSINESSES are being warned to stay on their guard following the appearance of a money-laundering scam.

A trader in Harrogate has received an invitation, supposedly from the South African department for minerals and energy, saying a share of $14.5m is available after an invoicing error.

The letter seeks partners to assist in transferring the money abroad in return for a quarter of the proceeds.

Head of trading standards in North Yorkshire, Stuart Pudney, said: "We have encountered many similar scams but this is the first one we have come across which claims to originate from South Africa - most of the others seem to involve Nigeria in some way.

"This is a little more subtle than the others because it does not invite the recipient to send their bank details straight away, which is the usual tactic.

"We have discussed this matter with the South African High Commission in London, who have confirmed that similar scams are under investigation in South Africa.

"Our advice is to send any such letters to us and we will pass them on to the South African High Commission."