Saturday 18 April 2015

Scammers are still there

Scammers are certainly still there and like certain other professions as old as humanity, they’re not going away.

You might think that the “traditional” scammers have moved on to more modern scams but they’re still there. There are still messages arriving on people’s computers every day like this one that ended up in my Junk folder last week.
“Greetings dear,my name is Angela i saw your profile on (facebook) today contact me through my email address( so that i can give you my picture for you to know who i am am interested to make friend with you. Thanks. Yours Truly Friend, Angela”
This is the beginning of a classic “advance fee” scam. If you reply the next email will explain that “Angela” is in fact being held in a refugee camp somewhere in West Africa and can only communicate through her pastor. She’ll say that her late father, uncle or grandfather died suddenly leaving a massive amount of money in a bank account that, for some reason, she can’t access. She’ll then ask you to help by allowing the money to be transferred to your account and you’ll be able to keep a large proportion of it. She’ll explain that her pastor will be the person you’ll communicate with. However just before the money is ready to be transferred the pastor will then explain that there is a fee you have to pay, maybe to a lawyer or perhaps a customs or bank official for the money transfer to proceed. That’s what the whole thing is about, that “advance fee” payment. That’s what they want.

But scammers have certainly moved on. These days they focus much more on recruitment and romance.

We received an email last week that said:
“I have been communication with a company in London Active Event Company (Edward Jones) that has stated that they have employed me as their Travel Event Manager and have directed me to another agent to process work permit and visa.”
The job offer letter that was sent was very generous. This job offered a salary of £4,900 per month (that’s nearly P900,000 per year), despite the fact that this company had never met this potential recruit, had never interviewed her and didn’t even know anything about her. Consider this bit from the offer letter (I haven’t corrected the spelling or the language):
“This apointment may be terminated by either side giving one month notice. The normal hour of work are 35 hours per week, and you will be entitled to tree weeks ( if under four weeks if over 21) paid holiday in each complete year of service and four weeks holiday.”
Does that sound like the sort of language that any company would use in a letter offering someone employment?

Yes, in case you were wondering, there was an advance fee here too, for the fake visa they said the recruit would need.

Then we had another plea for help. This one came in live on Facebook. I was chatting to a woman who was being victimized in real time. It turns out that a man had approached her on Facebook and a relationship had developed between them. She said:
“I have been communicating with someone named Luca Anders and he became my Facebook boyfriend. He said he is working in the UK and his contract is ending this month end. He took all his benefits from the company and he wants to come and settle with me in Botswana. He called me that he is coming with a flight which landed at Cape Town at 0930 this morning. Those that claim that they are at the airport called me asking if he is coming to me and I confirmed. Now they say he is carrying a lot of cash.

They say he should pay R10,000 for money laundering and now he says I should deposit the money and he’ll pay me back when he comes because they are now going to send him back and without that cash. Please check for me if its the truth. He says I should not tell many people coz he is carrying lots of money and he is fearing for his life. I’m in a fix. To deposit or not to or is this a scam?”
Not actually the scammer, just a
photo the scammer stole from
someone else on Facebook
Needless to say this is all a scam but it’s a clever one. The story about the guy arriving at Cape Town that very morning is very clever. It adds a real sense of urgency to the pressure she was under. The thought that her lover was in custody and might be kicked out of South Africa must have made her feel desperate.

As you’ll have realized again all they want is the R10,000. You can be sure that if she’d paid them they just would have asked for more and more money until either she finally realised it was a scam or she just ran out of money.

Luckily in both these cases the potential victims had a moment of skepticism before they handed over the money. Not everyone is this lucky. I can’t tell you how many people fall for these scams but I know they wouldn’t keep going if they didn’t work. They don’t have to work with every potential victim, they only have to work with a few because they make a LOT of money from the most gullible victims.

The real tragedy is that even though this last victim was lucky enough not to part with her money she nevertheless now has to come to terms with losing the guy she thought loved her. Yes, of course you can accuse her of being naïve and foolish but that doesn’t mean she isn’t suffering.

We can’t stop scammers but we do have a chance to stop our friends and loved-ones from falling victim to them. Let’s spread the skepticism needed to defend ourselves.

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