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Safety Online

Scammers catch out people from all walks of life – anyone can become a victim. Scams work because they are inventive, sound plausible (it might be a real situation) and in order to gain your trust, they often pretend to be from an official organisation or well known company. They come in many forms and use the Internet the target people all over the world.

Here are examples of different scams and how they work:

Nigerian 419 This scam is one of the oldest and named 419 after the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud. You receive an email pretending to be a lawyer/official/minister asking for your help to move a large amount of “frozen” money out of a foreign country and offering you a percentage.

They send official-looking documents and may even arrange meetings to convince you it is a real opportunity. Once you have agreed, they will say something has gone wrong. They may say things like “an official demands an up-front bribe or a fee before the money can be transferred”. When you pay the money to unlock the transfer, they will simply give one excuse after another, and then another “problem” comes up where they need some more money etc.

Fraud recovery scams – If you were already a victim of Nigerian fraud, you may be a target for a fraud recovery scam. The scammer contacts the victim claiming that they can recover their lost money, for a price. Another approach is to say the Nigerian government has a fund to compensate victims of 419 scams, and to get their compensation you just need to fill in a form (which usually includes personal information) and send a processing and handling fee. These scams will sometimes impersonate the Nigeria fraud squad, the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) to gain credibility and your trust.

Online dating – women (often men posing as women) contact men. They send a picture a pretty young girl looking for someone to offer security and marriage. She will ask for money – it could be to buy an airline ticket to visit you, for a sick family member, or help her family with a business deal. These are all just excuses to get money.

Lottery – You’ve won a lottery you never entered! They ask you to pay an administration fee or taxes. And when you do, they are the winners!

Internet Auctions – The most common auction scam is to ask you to pay for something by cheque, postal order or wire transfer. They usually offer some excuse as to why you can’t use a protected means of payment such as Paypal or a credit card. They receive the money but you don’t receive the goods. There is no mechanism to “undo” the funds transfer.

Rental scam

A fraudster offers a great price for a flat or house to rent in a desirable area. When you ask to see the property the fraudster insists that you provide proof that you can afford the deposit and first month’s rent. They ask that you send a wire transfer (Western Union or Moneygram) to yourself or a friend. They assure you that this is perfectly safe as the wire transfer is made out to yourself or a friend. Once you made that transfer, you are asked to email a copy of the transfer order to the fraudster. When the fraudster gets your email he takes that order and claims the money. Although, the wire transfer agents are suppose to see an ID and ask a security question. In practise this does not happen, the agent releases the money and the person trying to rent the property loses their money.

PayPal classified seller scam – A seller uses online classified ads to sell items. A fraudster offers to buy an item usingPayPal. The seller gives the buyer the email linked to his PayPal account so the buyer can pay the money into it. The fraudster uses a stolen credit card to make a payment to PayPal. Credit card payments are converted into e-checks and take about seven days to clear. PayPal puts up a notice in the seller’s account saying payment is pending. The buyer then uses the email linked to the PayPal account and sends the seller a spoof/fake that says the reason why the payment is pending is because the seller has to put in proof of shipment (tracking number). The seller believes the fake email and ships the package. The credit card payment that the buyer made to the seller PayPal account fails because it is a bogus or stolen credit card. PayPal informs the seller that the funds did not clear. The seller has lost the item and the cost of shipping that item.

Paying over the odds – this is when someone buys an item (eg in an Internet auction or small-ad) and sends a cheque or bankers draft for too much. They ask you to send the item, and also the balance of the money. Later, the bank notifies you that the cheque or bankers draft was a forgery, and you have lost the money. The criminals have the item and the change.

Competitions – Congratulations, You’ve Won! An email is sent claiming you won a competition. They give you a link to claim a prize. They ask you to confirm your details and to give a debit card number and PIN/security code to cover “shipping and handling” costs. Needless to say you don’t receive the goods and your card has been compromised.

Working from home ? You will see adverts on recruitment websites or via email looking for a “sales manager” “UK representative”, “office or shipping manager” etc. But what they are looking for is for someone to help them launder money – money mules. This is when a person receives funds into their account, take a commission, then send the money on by wire transfer overseas. It is illegal.

Escort agencies say that there is a demand for women and men to go on dates. They will also say that there are no sexual favours involved and you can earn up to £150+ an hour. After talking to the victim, the agency tells the victim they can book a client straight away. The agency will insist that the victim pays cash sign-up fee into the agency’s bank before they can confirm the booking. After the victim pays they are told that the client cancels the booking. When the victim ask for their money back they are told they weren’t paying for a booking but an advert. The agency has created one so the money is non-refundable.

Postal Forwarding/Reshipping Scam – Ads looking for a shipping or correspondence manager may say something like this: “An offshore company that doesn’t have a UK office or bank account needs someone to take goods sent to their address and reship them overseas”. This is like money-mules except you are forwarding goods obtain by deception or fraud. It is illegal.

Holiday Villa – scammers offer villas in popular places for holiday rental. They use legitimate websites as well as creating their own websites. This makes it difficult to tell they are scammers. They ask you to pay 50% in advance and 50% two weeks before your stay by wire transfer. They reply to your emails, offer directions and make arrangements for airport transfers. But when you arrive you find out you’ve been scammed.

Free adult porn – Websites offer free images of sexy women/men for free, you just have to give them your credit card number to prove you’re over 18. Surprise, surprise, soon credit card charges start appearing your card.

Pedigree puppies – Special offer on pedigree puppies for sale, up to half the price of a locally bred puppy. These scammers advertise that the puppies are coming from Europe and will be delivered to you. Again, your money is gone and no puppy arrives.

Charity scams – When there is a big natural disaster scammers get to work. They send out emails asking for donations. The emails are linked to a realistic website, often pretending to be from a major charity. The website will take credit card donations to help the victims of the disaster. The real disaster is that the criminals now have your credit card details.

This same scam is used for other charity or religious requests e.g. help the orphans, give to missionary work etc.

For more information there are some great recourses :

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