My cousin was sent some gifts from UK through a company called Cargo Trade. So they are saying they demand P3,500 so that they can give us those gifts and the phone number is not going through. They don't reply to us. The are busy saying we should sent P3,500 before we receive the gifts. We asked where is the office located so we can take them. They are busy saying no just send some money. I have the number of that person who claims to be the manager of the company?
This is a scam.
Firstly, there is no company registered under that name in Botswana and I can find no trace of any business using that name. Secondly, the cell phone number you sent me for the company also seems to be unanswered, unknown and untraceable.
More importantly, this is exactly the same story we've heard many times before. Typically a victim befriends someone on a social media channel, often Facebook but also Instagram and Twitter. Quite often that friendship develops into something much deeper, in the minds of the victims it even transforms into romantic attachments. It might seem hard to believe but the victims often consider themselves in love with their scammer.
Then what happens is that the scammer offers to send their victim a package. Often they'll claim it contains a laptop, high-end cellphone, jewellery and even cash. A few days later the victim, like your cousin, gets a call from someone claiming to represent the shipping company saying that there's a fee to pay. Sometimes they'll say it's a clearance fee, other times they'll say it's a tax or duty. Whatever they claim, that's what this scam is all about, the fake fee they claim you must pay to receive your package.
The clever thing about this scam is that it sounds plausible. If you've ever had something shipped to Botswana from overseas you'll know, as I do, that the shipping company won't deliver the package until you've paid BURS for any duty that might be owed. But in this case BURS isn't involved. This is just a scammer making up stories to steal your cousin's money.
Chatting with a scammer
We've been warning people recently about the various scams that are actively recruiting new victims. Most exploit our ignorance about cryptocurrencies and forex trading, promising that we can make vast profits on our 'investments' if we sign up. One of the ways I've been researching this is by talking to scammers and pretending to be a possible victim. However, sooner or later I've lost patience and accused them of being scammers. That's when they go silent or block me.
But last week something remarkable happened.
He also told me that the scammers he works with are serious criminals. Their business isn't just scamming people, it also "involves killing of beloved ones and others". He claimed he wasn't involved in the contract killing side of the business and he was just "on legitimate scamming". One of the things that surprised me was how little he said he'd earned from scamming. Just $1,500 over 3½ years. That's just P4,300 each year. However, the good news is that he spent it all on his school fees. At least he's concentrating on his education.