Friday, 22 February 2013

ONLINE WORLD and the WORLD OF SCAMMERS: be informed

I still remember this very well. It was back in the year 2009 when I received an email from a “very beautiful lady” from Senegal who had befriended me on Tagged, one of the numerous social networking sites. She went ahead and told me that she is a Daughter of the late President of the country and before her father’s death, he wrote a will for her to inherit USD 900,000 (Kshs 72,000,000.00). But due to some political strife, it would be impossible for her to withdraw the money in her country.
As she told me, all she wanted was that I should help her to relocate to Kenya, assist her to transfer the money into my bank account, assist her to relocate to Kenya and since she was full of praises of how handsome I were (and I know I am!), she even claimed to have fallen head over heels in love with me and was willing to spend the rest of her life with me in Kenya. Well, the prospect of double blessings, a strikingly beautiful young lady with awesome riches and a miraculous deliverance from a low level citizen to a first class Kenyan was too enticing! I thanked God for that but my hope was to be rudely cut off, with some loss as I am going to reveal in this article. Read on…

Scam Alert

What is a Scam?
This is a scheme for making money by dishonest means. Online scams are now the order of the day since the invention of World Wide Web and many people continue to fall victims to scammers who are constantly evolving and finding new ways to trick victims into parting with their hard earned money.
There are two major types of online scams namely:-
  • Romance Scam : This type of scam occurs when someone is tricked into believing that he/she has met an online dating partner who continuously bombard him/her with a series of very sweet love e mails while in reality the scammer is setting her/his victim into falling into a trap where he/she will be defrauded his/her money. The consequences are financial loss and emotional devastation after realizing what was going on.
  • Financial Scam: This type of scam occurs where someone is tricked into sealing an enticing financial deal like winning a lottery, scrupulous business transaction, etc. The victim is tricked into parting with some amount of money in order to claim the prize or to have his/her goods delivered. At times the victim is tricked into revealing his/her personal details like bank account number, Visa or master card PIN, etc normally through phishing and the scammer assumes his/her victim’s identity and continue using his/her identity to carry on some online transactions or worse, you find your bank account emptied!
Scam continues to be a very rife cyber crime that continues to plague the modern online world with numerous dark stories behind it. Financial loss and emotional devastation follows the victim. Ways and techniques of identifying a potential online scam and elude it is the major aim of this article.

Tell tale signs that it is a scam.
“When the deal is too good, think twice”. This is an old saying which applies practically to scam world. In romance scam, you get an email from someone who tells you to contact you via a private email normally hosted on a public domain like Yahoo, Gmail etc. Scammers rarely use private domains to avoid being traced. The sender tells you that she/he will contact you with more details like pictures etc. The tell tale signs that it is a romance scam are:-
  1. Funny looking e mail address sounding too sweet e.g. *******4u@yahoo.com, ********foryou@gmail.com, ********inlove@gmail.com, lovely********@yahoo.co.uk, sweetsomeone***@gmail.com, delicious***4u@hotmail.com etc. Wait a minute, why “for you”, “delicious”, “sweet” etc? This is to mesmerize you from the word go!
  2. The first e mail comes with a snap or snaps of her very beautiful self, with fantastic poses. The pictures are normally not more than 6, mostly only 1 or 2. The email also asks you to send your own snaps too (Which normally many people do!). The trick here is to enchant you and should you ask for some more pictures, you will be lucky if “she” sends more, but normally she will elude your request for more with a series of “sweet” love letters.
  3. Look at this quoted e mail carefully, “Hello my new African prince.  !!!:) I ****** from USA.. 

How are you? Thanks  for being interested in me!!! It is very pleasant!!!! And it is wonderful, that I can answer you!!!!:) I think, that our friendship and dialogs will bring us only happiness and pleasure!!! Don't you think so?!! I already feel a few excitement!!! Let me begin with a story why I have decided to get acquainted in then Internet. I do not search for the simple friend!!! I search for serious relationship!!!! And it is important for me to know the person very well. I concern to this question very well,i hope to come in African to tour some countries and i learn more a bout your country seriously!!!! I am lonely young woman  and looking for a serious man out side USA.” Do you notice the irregularities in this quoted introduction?
  • A very charming title, “Prince”.
  • Semantic, grammar and spelling errors are all over and very evident.
  • Inconsistence in carriage return [ENTER KEY], a pure indication that this is a copy pasted email!
  • An email from a very prosperous nation [USA] from someone seeking “serious relationship”.
  1. After introduction, if you continue with communication, you continue being bombarded with a series of sweet love letters, poems, etc with promises of undying love.
  2. Normally for a phone number, the scammer will give you a phone number which never goes through, and if the scammer happens to call you, he/she uses a call redirection technique to make it seem like he/she is calling from another country. They also use sophisticated software to mimic some female voices and live video chats.
Romance scams are very tricky since someone is emotionally blackmailed before getting swindled.
Financial scams on the other hand are relatively easier to identify.
  1. They mostly assume some sale of merchandise which requires you to part with some delivery fee. There are a number of variations on advance fee fraud, but they all ask people to pay an upfront fee to receive something valuable. Once the fee is paid, the fraudster ceases to exist.
  2. FBI related e mails telling you that some money has been recovered on your behalf. NOTE: FBI NEVER use Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail accounts and any other public domain e mails.
  3. Hijacked e mail accounts. If you get an email from your friend asking you for money via some means like western union money transfer, call your friend and be sure if it is true.
  4. Some scammers will also hijack your computer or network and use it to perpetrate some online crime. Take steps to secure your computer network through anti-virus software, malware, firewalls, or any other available safety measure.
  5. Online charity sweepstakes are normally scams.
  6. Credit card fraud. This is overcharging you for a legally bought item and unauthorized credit card usage. Always conduct business transactions with reputable organizations and keep reviewing your credit card statements every month. [Find out more via Google].
How to avoid being scammed
  1. If the deal is too good, think twice. Don’t be greedy. If a stranger is offering you a fortune, but wishes some co-operation from you, it is highly likely to be a scam.
  2. Be skeptical when dealing with people online. If you get an email from a friend or stranger that is suspicious, confirm your suspicion.
  3. Be World Wide Web Literate in matters of online security, legitimate websites, online transactions, verification of online accounts in social sites etc. If someone’s phone number never goes through, it is probably a scam!
  4. Feel free to consult me when you think an online deal is suspicious, I have some knowledgeable and oh! Nasty experiences with online criminals and scammers included.
  5. Above all, use your commonsense.
Well for me, the worst loss I have ever gotten from an online scammer is a hacked e mail account that got deleted, with it the loss of everything that was saved in it. Be careful, yours might be worse!
Have a good day.


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