Thursday 4 June 2009

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Yet another scam this week. I don’t know for sure if there are actually more scams out there or maybe it’s just that people are reporting more of them but I DO know that we get more of these emails than we used to. The danger is that as the economic crisis hits harder and harder scammers will need to try harder and harder to steal our money. Unlike muggers and carjackers they’re not going to get more and more violent, they’re going to get more and more subtle and convincing. Their emails are going to become more convincing and unless we prepare ourselves we are going to fall for their lies in vast numbers at the very time we need to protect ourselves more carefully.

The only defences we have against these scammers are knowledge and skepticism. We need to learn about the way they try to scam us. Consumer Watchdog and The Voice can help with this but it’s also up to you. Tell your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours if you see a scam, make sure they know how to spot a fraud. Learn yourself and teach them to read everything with healthy skepticism. Just because you read something in an email doesn’t make it true, particularly if it comes from a total stranger who offers you something that you know is too good to be true.

This week we heard from someone else the scammers had tried to con. The difference was this “victim” knew what was happening from the beginning and decided to string them along. If you have some spare time and are prepared to engage with the crooks this is actually quite an amusing pastime. “Scambaiting” is a way of taking the battle back to the criminals. Respond to their messages, ask awkward questions, waste their time and their internet connection and you might actually do some good. Every minute of their time that you waste is a minute they aren’t scamming someone more naïve or gullible.

This encounter is educational though. It shows the sort of explanations they come up with to persuade you to part with your money. Remember of course that none of what the scammers say is true, it’s all lies.

Dumela Watchdog,

I got a mail last week saying that I had won £750,000 in an Internet User draw. Very well! I answered reluctantly to find out the "cost" which I got today - $1,000!! I told them to take it from my money and transfer the rest to my bank account.

Interesting to see what the answer will be!

Explanation from the scammers

The scammers responded and said that they would:

“effect air-tight modalities to ensure the funds are telegraphically wired and plugged into your account via an Automated Online Direct Wire Transfer System operated by our bank. But first of all you have to activate this account with the banks Foreign Operations Department. The total fund deposited in our bank has been insured, this fund can only be transferred from your bank account here which must be active for processing. You are required to activate your account with $1000 USD which is the minimum deposit balance.”

This is all nonsense of course, they’re desperate to come up with some fancy-sounding justification for the “advance fee” they want from the victim.

Our reader got back to them again and asked “please tell me seriously, why should I open and activate an account with your bank if the Irish National Lottery wants to give me money?”

Response from the scammers

“As an affiliated bank of the lottery board we are saddled with the responsibility to ensure, we have your won funds transferred into any other bank account that you operate.

We manage fund regulation and transfer for the lottery board, it is meant to be a bank to bank telegraphic wire transfer. Your account in our bank must be active for this transaction that is, why we require that you activate your account in our bank with the minimum account balance of $1,000 USD.”

More meaningless nonsense.

The scam

This scam is just like all the others. It started with an email from the “Bank of Cardiff” announcing that the recipient had won a lottery, in this case the “Irish Lottery”. Then came the last minute announcement that the victim has to pay $1,000 to “activate” the bank account which will receive the money.

Apart from the obvious clue that the victim hadn’t entered the lottery so can’t have won it there’s the silliness about paying money to “activate” the account. If it was true the fictitious lottery winnings would do that, wouldn’t they?

The really smart thing about these crooks is they have a very impressive looking web site. However when we started researching we found out how clever they had been. Their web site is a very good copy of the real US-based Bank of Cardiff web site but hosted in Norfolk Island, an island the size of Mochudi in the middle of the Pacific. The fake site is very impressive if you aren’t looking carefully. You can see links to both on our web site.

The real Bank of Cardiff are so concerned about the threat to their reputation that they’ve put a warning on their web site about the scammers so we’re not the first to discover this.

This is a sign of things to come. Scammers are getting smarter, they’re trying harder to be convincing and they’re succeeding. Be warned!

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