You’ve probably, at one point in your life or another, received an email from an exiled prince from a little-known South African country who needs your help to move his gazillions of dollars from one bank to another – and he is happy to give you a big chunk of his money as a reward (or payment) once the deal has been finalized. Sounds familiar eh? This kind of scam is called the Nigerian 419 Scam and, although it is called Nigerian Scam, it is not limited to just that country.
Nigerian Scams is an advance fee fraud that surprisingly similar to the Spanish Prisoner scam prevalent in the 19th Century. Just like the Nigerian 419s, in the Spanish Prisoner scam, wealthy businessmen are contacted by someone who is supposedly trying to smuggle someone connected to a wealthy and / or prominent family out of a prison in Spain. Of course they will need money to bribe the prison guards so, if the funds could be advanced, this will be repaid (tenfold!) once the prisoner is out. Sounds familiar?
Since Nigerian 419 Scams concerning princes, royalty or political figures can be detected a mile away, scammers are getting more and more imaginative in trying to con people out of their hard-earned money. Here are a few (not all) scamming techniques that you should be aware of.
Computer Virus Scams
You receive a phone call from a technician advising you that according to their system, your computer has a virus and, if you follow their step by step procedure, they can help you get rid of the virus. If you’re gullible, you do as you’re told and, once the “virus” has been successfully eliminated, you are asked for your credit card statement because you either have to: (1) pay for the service or (2) buy an “anti-virus” software to prevent this from happening again. Once you give your credit card details, expect strange transactions to come up on your statement.
TIP: No one can see what’s happening on your computer. Not unless you give them access to it, and even so, you need to be on the same network for this to work. If you receive a call from a “helpful tech support agent” just hang up.
Online Trading Scams
Since many people sell and buy items through the internet, it’s not surprising that scammers have infiltrated this avenue as well. In Online Trading Scams, the scammers put something up for sale, or for rent (could be a property) for an unbelievably cheap or reasonable price. And then they wait patiently until someone makes contact. When that happens, they either try to convince you to buy that item because it’s a good deal, or if it’s a property, tell you that there has been so much interest that you need to send a deposit equivalent to 4 weeks rent – even if you haven’t viewed the property at all. If you buy the item or send the funds – sorry, consider your hard earned cash gone.
TIP: It always pays to read the comments left by other buyers and check the seller’s ratings – although these could be rigged. Just be careful when you do business online. Live by the tenet that if it’s too good to be true – it probably is.
Banking and Phishing Scams
This is another common scam and one that (sadly) many people fall for. People receive an email supposedly from their bank or an online service such as Paypal. The email looks legit – it has the logo, the right font, all the bells and whistles. In this email, you’ll be asked to click on a link and enter your login and password so that their system can be updated. If you do this, their system will be updated all right – they’ll have your banking details and can easily filch funds from your account.
TIP: Your bank, eBay, Paypal, Moneybookers, Skype … will never ever ever ask for your banking details. If you receive an email such as this, ignore it or if you can, contact your bank to report the incident.
Online Dating Scams
You’re on a dating site, and after sending countless smiles, winks, nudges and pokes to other people on the site you finally connect with one (or a few). You exchange emails, and your friendly banter soon develops into something more romantic. Hmmm … love is in the air! Then suddenly, even before you meet in person, your online paramour tells you a sob story about how his/her mother/father/cousin/neighbor’s pet canary is sick and that he/she needs emergency funds for it. She asks if you can lend a hand – and because you’re blinded by love, you send some money – and then all of a sudden your online lover is gone (and so is your money).
TIP: Once your online sweetheart starts hinting about sending over funds for whatever reason, end the “relationship” – and don’t go to South America on his/her request to bring over a bag that he/she’s left behind. You may be acting as a drug mule without your knowing.
Lottery / Parcel Delivery Scams
You receive an email congratulating you for winning the biggest lottery in Britain (which you don’t remember joining) or a notification that a parcel is waiting for you at the the DHL / Fedex depot. In that email you are asked to either send an amount to facilitate transfer of funds into your account or, click on a link and pay via credit card. If you do either – you lose your money, and you don’t get the big winning nor the mystery parcel.
TIP: If you didn’t join a lottery, or order anything online – you didn’t win the big prize, nor will you receive a parcel in the post. Besides, if you did join the lottery – wouldn’t you be glued to websites announcing the results to see if you’ve won? And if you did purchase something online, the courier company will not send you emails – you will receive a letter from them if something needs to be done before your package is released.
There are a whole lot of other scams circulating – some use the names and logos of charitable institutions, others offer fantastic holiday packages in exotic locations, or offering employment in another country or amazing opportunities to work from home, or ways to lose weight fast! These scams come in all shapes and sizes and the only way to protect yourself from them is to be wary of anything out of the ordinary.