Friday, 11 September 2015

The worst scammer. Ever.

Scammers haven’t gone away. They’re still out here trying new ways of separating us from our money. The sad fact is that scammers have existed since the dawn of humanity and they’ll probably be the last to die out. They’re a part of our existence and just like all other species they’re evolving.

Gone are the days when the only scam was the traditional “419” scam. These still exist of course. Just a few weeks I got the following email.
“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 was the beginning of a classic 419 or “advance fee” scam. When I replied the next email explained that “Angela” was in fact being held in a refugee camp somewhere in West Africa. “She” said that her late father died leaving a massive amount of money in a bank account that she couldn’t access. She asked me to help by allowing the money to be transferred to my account and that I’d be able to keep a large proportion of it.

Of course I knew this was a scam and didn’t pursue it (or Angela) any further. I knew that just before the fake money would be ready to be transferred it would be revealed that there’s a fee I must pay, perhaps to a lawyer, customs official or bank employee 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 evolved. These days they focus much more on other approaches.

One consumer emailed saying:
“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 the reader received was very generous. Despite having never met this potential recruit, never interviewing her and not even know anything about her, the company “offered” her a salary of £4,900 per month (that’s nearly P900,000 per year). Consider this bit from the offer letter she received (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 genuine company offering a million Pula job would use in an offer letter? Of course not. And inevitably there was the advance fee they wanted, this time it was for the fake visa they said the recruit would need.

Then there are the romantic scammers. These really are the lowest of the low, the most despicable scumbags you’ll ever meet. A few weeks ago I chatted 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?”
Yes, this WAS a scam but you have to admit it was a clever one. The story about the guy arriving at Cape Town that very morning added 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 made her desperate and when people are desperate they are often irrational and foolish.

All these scammers wanted was the R10,000. Rest assured that if she’d paid them they would just have asked for more and more until either she finally realized it was a scam or she just ran out of money.

And finally would you like to hear about the worst scammer I’ve ever encountered?

This was another romantic scammer. A woman contacted me asking about her “friend” who had sent her a package apparently containing all sort of goodies. Now there was a shipping agent who needed a payment before the package could be released. The same old story that scammers tell their victims.

But this time there was a difference. I told her the bad news, that her “boyfriend”, the package and the shipping agent were all fictitious. “He doesn’t exist”, I told her. “But he does”, she insisted. “No, he really doesn’t”, I replied. “But I met him, he’s real”, she said.

It seems that this particular scammer met her in Joburg a few months beforehand and they had spend a romantic weekend together before he left “for the USA” from where he said he’d send her the package. This was a new one for me. I’m used to scammers screwing their victims financially, but to do so in the flesh was a surprise to me. A rapist as well as a scammer. A new low.

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