Friday 25 July 2008

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice

I recently received a text message on my cellphone telling me that I had won a Toyota Landcruiser. All I had to do was phone the foreign number they gave me and I could collect my prize. I never entered a lottery or competition so I don’t know what they’re talking about. Can this be true?

What should I do?

Delete the message. Don’t be tempted to call them back, don’t SMS them, don’t do anything other than delete the message and forget about it.

Sadly, nobody is ever going to give you a Landcruiser like that. Let’s be honest, nobody is ever going to give you a Landcruiser at all!

This is clearly a scam. We don’t know how this one works but it could involve the person at the other end either getting you to disclose enough personal details so they can steal your identity. Alternatively it could just be that you will phone a premium rate number that will run up a huge phone bill for you. It could even be one of the “419” style, advance fee frauds that anyone with an email address has by now probably received. This involves a total stranger offering you a staggering amount of money, but you soon learn that the only way you get your hands on this entirely fictional sum of money is to send an “advance fee” to pay for lawyers or export agents. Of course as soon as you pay them this money they disappear and you never hear from them again.

There are some very simple lessons here. You can’t win a lottery unless you’ve entered it. Nobody will ever just give you a fortune for nothing. You simply can’t believe everything you read in emails, text messages or even a newspaper articles. Switch on the sceptical part of your brain whenever you read anything. It may save you a fortune.

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