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How to spot a scam

Dear Sir,

First I must solicit your confidence in this transaction, this is by virtue of it’s nature as being utterly Confidential and top secret. Though I know that a transaction of this magnitude will make any one apprehensive and worried, but I am assuring you that this is real and genuine. My name is Mr.Johnson kofi. I am the manager of the international commercial bank Ghana, first light branch. I am a Ghanaian married with two kids. I am writing to solicit your assistance in the transfer of us $2,500.000.00…”

While the above piece of spam (which I received last week – lucky me) is pretty primitive, a record number of Australians are currently falling prey to ruthless scam merchants who are exploiting the economic meltdown to target the poor and elderly, according to an article in the Daily Telegraph on the weekend. And apparently the authorities are concerned that Kevin07’s $10.4 billion payout (which we discussed last week) could encourage scammers to come up with some new and ever more inventive frauds.

“Pleasant day,

If you have access to a computer, you can work at home and get paid weekly. Would you like to work online from home and get paid weekly? If yes, MercadoLibre Limited is glad to offer you a job position in our company, MercadoLibre Limited as part of our ongoing Multi Level Marketing Network this Christmas period, we seek capable individuals to work for us as our representative in Australia.

You can easily make A$700-A$2,000 or more in a week by working for us as Sub-contractor in your geographical location, you will be in charge of collecting payment on behalf of our affiliates and Small business organizations that are registered under us…”

Another job offer I received last week. And as a mum of three, it would be pretty tempting, I must say, to find a job that paid me $2000 a week for a few hours of at-home work!

Fortunately, however, I also interviewed Peter Kell last week. Peter is the deputy chair of the ACCC and he admitted to a begrudging respect for some of the scammers.

“You have to give these scammers credit,” he said. “They do pick up on current issues very quickly and shape scams around those issues. Often they come up with very sophisticated scams, and some of these scammers are pretty bright. If only their powers could be used for good, not evil.”

Now the above examples that I have plucked from my computer’s junk mail folder aren’t particularly sophisticated and I can’t imagine that they would con anybody. Nevertheless, an ABS release a few months ago indicated that over 5.8 million Australians were exposed to a scam in the 12 months prior to the survey. This involved people receiving and viewing or reading an unsolicited invitation, request, notification or offer, designed to obtain their personal information or money or otherwise obtain a financial benefit by deceptive means.

To be successful, the scam had to get a response from the recipient. Of those who had received a fraudulent invitation or request, 5.7 per cent (or 329,000 people) became victims by responding to the scam by supplying personal information, money or both, or seeking more information.

That’s a lot of victims! So what type of scams are popular right now?

“At the moment one that is generating a lot of complaints is the free holiday offer where people receive a phone call that is a pre-recorded message, telling them that they have won a holiday,” says Peter Kell. “When they press the button or phone the number to collect it they are transferred to a travel consultant who asks them for a range of personal information, often including credit card details. The upshot is that the holiday either doesn’t exist, or if it does eventuate it involves a lot of hidden fees and charges.”

A scam may not even be as upfront as that.

“Another common technique that some scammers use is to pose as a telemarketer and contact people to answer survey questions,” says Peter. “Then a couple of weeks later, someone will contact you again to tell you that you have won a prize for answering the survey. They may ask you to pay an admin fee to collect the prize, and ask for your credit card details.” Inevitably, there’s no prize and you have just blown the “admin fee”, plus provided your credit card details.

Fully Licensed MDs in America – 788,895 in total <> 17,563 emails

Many different medical specialties, over a dozen sortable fields. Now priced at: $392 !!!!!!!

You get these for F-Ree with every order this week !!!!!!!

List of American Pharma Companies- 47,000 names and emails of the major positions.

Complete Listing of Hospitals in the USA – Full data for all the major positions in more than 7k facilities.

US Dentist Database – 597,000 dentists and dental services ( a $350 value!)

US Chiropractor List – Complete data for all chiropractors in the USA (a $250 value)…”

Peter advises that the best scams target people’s emotional decision making.

“As an example, health products or online pharmacies and offers of miracle products,” he says.

“If you have a sick family member and want to find a cure at any cost you can be very tempted to give it a go. Or the offer of a romantic relationship. People’s desire to enter into a relationship may blind them to the rational side of decision making.”

Scams also arise to take advantage of current market conditions. So a scam this year has taken advantage of the tightness in the rental market, by offering non-existent properties for rent.

Eager property renters have paid deposits or bonds to secure the property, only to find that it doesn’t exist.

“Another recent scam in the USA, which may well make it to our shores is based on the current global financial turmoil,” says Peter. “The scammers are seeking to play upon the anxiety or uncertainly of people. Recipients receive and email purporting to be from their bank, seeking details of their accounts or credit card due to a bank merger or current financial security requirements. It’s important to remember that your bank will never ask for details of that nature via an email.”

To help protect yourself though, the ACCC has a fantastic website (www.scamwatch.gov.au) to help consumers spot a scam. It goes through the common scams that are around, as well as providing regular updates on the new and improved ways that fraudsters have to try to take your money. And I’d encourage all readers to download the site’s free Little Black Book of Scams. Even if you feel that you are far too savvy to ever fall for a line, it makes great reading!

“One thing to remember about these scammers is that they’re not just the shabby guy on the corner trying to sell you cheap sunglasses,” says Peter. “They are very sophisticated, working for large organisations. Just remember that there are very few free things in life – if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.”

So share your scamming experiences this week. Have you ever fallen for a scam? And if not, what’s the most outrageous scam email you have ever received?

Have a great (and scam-free) week!

Justine

Credit: Justine Davies

Source: News

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  1. I traveled to Ghana in 2006 for the first time. I was impressed by the friendliness of people there. I met a young girl in Aburi Garden who was gracious enough to show me around.

    When I left, an e-mail correspondence ensued, in which she confessed romantic attraction to me.

    Very soon, she wrote to tell me that she lost her job in a sewing factory. As I was grateful for her help as a tour guide one day, I sent her the money for a sewing machine, business cards, and a cell phone.

    Later she said it was impossible to work in her house, so I sent her money to have a container converted to an office. She reportedly placed this on a street on Tema until the officials cleaned off the streets and forced her to move.

    After that I sent her money to buy a piece of property adjacent to a busy road. The lawyer fees and land registration fees were enormous. And of course along the way, there were the usual illnesses of the girl and her family, them getting thrown out of their house, and countless other supposed difficulties.

    When I finally said “no” to sending any more money, I got an e-mail from a supposed Interpol investigator saying they had been tracking these scammers for awhile and wanted to convict them. He had me send a lot of supporting documentation about my transactions.

    The the policeman told me in Ghana courts of law, the victim of a scam crime must pay for the prosecution by a good attorney. I thought this was very weird, but I agreed to pay $1400 for the lawyer.

    The case supposedly went to trial, and the scammers were convicted. I was awarded $21,300 in damages. But guess what? I was told the Ghana taxed court awards at 7%. When I sent this money, he guaranteed me that a check would be sent me by the Ghana embassy in Washington.

    Now every day this attorney pesters me, saying I will lose the court award if I don’t pay the taxes soon. I wanted back-up evidence, and he sent me a scan of a court decree from the proceedings. Only trouble is, some words are not spelled correctly. It looks fishy to me. I remember that the phoney land deed was a very convincing piece of work.

    Can anyone help me verify this policy of Ghana taxing victim compensation awards, and possibly verify the existence of the judge and the case number on this decree?

    I hear it is common in Nigerian scams to offer “help” to a scam victim, in order to extract more money from them.

    Kim Henry’
    henrius@mindspring.com