Allison: Further to my recent post on phone scams, Richard Hardie has kindly sent me a blog piece he wrote about other types of scam, which he has invited me to share with Chandler’s Ford Today readers. So many thanks for that, Richard.
We both hope the phone scam piece and this article will help prevent some falling victim to the greedy, callous thieves who think it is okay to con people. (The irony being they would object strongly if someone conned them!).
Here is Richard’s wonderful blog post.
Scams and Scammers, by Richard Hardie
Wondering what to blog about, I realised the topic was staring me in the face, in the shape of emails in my spam filter.
We all have a good laugh at the emails that come through, especially from Nigeria and Burkina Faso, often telling us they’re from the Bank of Africa. To most of us, they’re obviously false and have given me the opportunity of posting on Facebook “how grateful” I am for the generosity of their originators in Africa.
Hundreds of thousands receive scam emails every day and 99.9% know to have a good laugh and delete them, especially if there’s an instruction to download a form. Unfortunately the other 0.1% believe that someone they’ve never heard of on another continent wants to make them a multi-millionaire with no risk.
So let’s look at who is taken in by the scammers, who are the scam artists and what scams predominate.
Who could be so silly as to be taken in?
When you think about it, it’s obvious and sad:-
– The greedy
– The gullible
– The very poor
– The desperate
– The very old.
Other than the greedy, all of the above are the last people who can afford to lose any money they have to scam artists. It’s not unknown for desperate people convinced they’re on the verge of solving all their financial problems to borrow money they can never repay, or even steal. Their lives were bad before, and after the scammers have finished with them their lives are frequently destroyed.
To the scammers it’s a numbers game and the people behind the scams are no better than drug dealers in the destruction they wreck on their victims.
Who are the scam artists?
That’s simple….they’re scum. Simple. Many of the email scams originate in Africa and frequently in Nigeria, where the government passed what is known as the 419 scam law trying to stop the “Advance Fee Payment” scam. They’ve had little success, partly I suspect because the Nigerian government itself is notoriously corrupt!
Russia also has its share of scam artists and in fact many of the databases used by the African scammers are “owned” by Russian crime syndicates that act as a Post Office for the Africans. In other words the Africans give the Russians an email they want sent and the Russians send it out to a large mailing list for a large fee….. in advance!
What scams are there?
The Advance Fee scam, usually from Nigeria and Burkina Faso, offers their victims untold riches because of:-
a) A minor clerk in an African bank has found a large sum of unclaimed money lying dormant as a result of a client’s death.
b) An African woman dying of cancer has nobody to leave her vast wealth to.
c) Just occasionally a US soldier returning from Iraq has a large amount of gold bullion stashed away and needs your help.
d) A 3rd world millionaire wants to send his daughter to the UK for safety and to further her education. You will select a university and look after all her money, taking a large percentage for yourself.
e) A 3rd world millionaire wants your help and advise on how to invest his money in the UK with you as partner.
f) You have inherited a large sum of money from someone who happened to have the same name as you…. so you might as well have the money.
g) The FBI on behalf of the Nigerian government has authorised a large payment to you in compensation for all the hassle you’ve had with scammers (relatively new and a clever spin).
The scam is that as soon as you email a reply all of them will say there is one small technicality (probably legal) and a small amount of money needs to be paid to facilitate the transfer of the money to your account. This is usually around £200.
Unfortunately if you pay that (usually by Western Union as it can’t be traced), another payment will be requested to cover local bank fees, lawyer payments, border controls, inter-bank transfer fees etc, etc. Any hesitation and the scammers will remind you that you’re only 24 hours from becoming a multi-millionaire. Each fee request tends to be for a larger amount, and once hooked victims find it difficult to break away.
The Inland Revenue
This is relatively new and involves an email offering you a rebate from the HMRC. The amount is small at around £250 and all you have to do is download a form, complete it and return it by email.
Except…. the HMRC never send emails and certainly never asks for your bank details!
The Russian/Chinese on-line shop scam.
This usually comes as a web link in an email that frequently comes from a friend whose email address list has been hacked, so it might even look genuine. Your “friend” will say that it’s a great site to go to for fantastic savings on all sorts of goods.
Amazingly if you click on the link it will take you to a really professional shopping site offering all kinds of high-value goods at very low prices. The scammers say that they can offer these prices because of bankrupt stock, low taxes in their country, they’ve found a way of avoiding border taxes, etc etc.
Three things happen when you order:-
a) The goods never turn up, and Russia is a long way to go for a refund!
b) The goods (or a box at least) turn up and are worse than defective, and probably deadly.
c) Your credit card / bank account is raided.
The “Help me” scam.
When the scammers have hijacked someone’s email contact address list, they send an email to all his contacts pretending to be him. They say they’ve been mugged and had their money, cards and all identity stolen and they need to pay a hotel bill now as they have to catch a plane home. They’re desperate and need your help. Send money by Western Union…. etc.
So how can you recognise a scam?
– Terrible spelling
– Terrible grammar
– The fact that the email’s “TO” has no name against it, even though the scammer has sent it to you particularly.
– There’s a form to download requesting personal details including everything to do with you bank account and passport.
– A request to send them a copy of your passport, or identity paper.
– Any request to send money through Western Union because it’s untraceable and irrevocable. Allison: This also applies to Moneygram.
– The absence of the little padlock showing the site is payment-secure.
– Why would any foreign millionaire want to give you a fortune with no strings attached?
– Why are so many clients of the Bank of Africa dead?
– Why haven’t the directors of the Bank of Africa realised that so many of their junior managers are suddenly multi-millionares?
– If the scammers sent you this personal email why do they now need to know your name and address? Surely they must already know it.
The rule is that there’s no free dinner, so don’t be one of the 0.01% and get scammed!
There are many more scams, and as fast as they get closed down, new ones jump up to attract the greedy, the unwary, the desperate and the vulnerable.
Allison: Many thanks, Richard, for this excellent advice.
All of this reminds me of another point. While many scammers do have atrocious spelling and grammar which so often is a dead giveaway, don’t rely on that alone. The professional scammers are “tidying up their act” here so they look “the business”.
I’ve received emails with very clever copies of bank logos and so on which were false. What gave it away were two things:-
The bank logo detail wasn’t quite detailed enough.
The bank logo was from a bank I have nothing to do with!
Just to refer back to my phone scams post, I came across this little gem on You Tube and thought you would enjoy it. Though American, the general advice about Revenue services not working in the way this scammer is trying to do is correct. Sadly not all scammers are as dumb as this one but just wait till you hear who they claim to be!
So again any news of other scams you know about, please share details in the comments box. And if you know people who might be vulnerable to this kind of scam (and I suspect most of us can think of at least one), do warn them.
I think the worst thing is those of my relative’s generation use the phone to do business as well as for social reasons but the crucial factor was everyone assumed everyone else was telling the truth. And that was the case. Not any more. Now scamming is a big business and it is all built on heartless lies.
It is now safer to assume anyone from a company calling you is probably lying and everything must be double checked before you give any information away. The golden rule is be in doubt. Don’t give anything away. Legitimate companies will find legitimate ways of getting in contact with you should they need to do so.
The only way to be safe here is to never give out personal information, hang up on any call claiming to be from your bank, the Revenue or a service provider, and check the number out from official company letter headings that you will have received from the company who are claiming they deal with you. If the number was genuine, you can call back.
I have found in helping my relative with his recent problem, the emphasis from the bank has been they would never call in this way, they actually want people to double check numbers before getting into conversation with them and so on.
Sad to say, you really can’t be careful enough. And it does now pay to be cynical and to question almost everything you hear or are told, especially if it comes from a stranger on the other end of the phone or an email/website link.
If these posts can go some way to stopping some would-be victims becoming victims, Richard and I would be well pleased.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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