LAST month I won half a million in an online lottery I hadn’t entered. Before that I could make a tidy commission simply by giving my bank details to a nice Nigerian minister to help him move his money.
Well may you laugh, but it’s astonishing how many people plunge wallet-first into obvious scams, especially since e-mail made the con-artist’s job so much easier and saved on the stamps.
A Tennessee pensioner lost tens of thousands of dollars of his life savings not once, but three times to the same conmen, in a triumph of hopeless greed over basic hog-sense.
You might think it takes an IQ in single figures to fall for such swindles. Indeed a recent BBC documentary revealed that e-mail scammers with a perfectly good command of the English language deliberately ‘dumb down’ their appeals with terrible grammar and spelling, because that weeds-out the more literate (and apparently less gullible) among us up-front.
But things have become so sophisticated in this age when hooking even a tiny fraction from an e-mail blitz can unlock a fortune for the scammer.
Your bank e-mails asking you nicely to update your details by clicking the link below. Except it isn’t a link to your real bank. Ka-ching and goodbye life savings.
Or take our Nigerian minister and similar fraudsters offering truly improbable amounts of money, if only you will pay the transfer fee involved. Ka-ching.
A friend (whose name has been hacked from your address book) e-mails from Thailand where she’s stranded without funds. Of course you’ll help? Ka-ching again.
A sad little girl in Anywhereville needs money for a life-saving operation and you open your heart. And wallet. No such girl, naturally.
The UK alone saw 1.7 million reported cases of cyber-fraud last year – never mind the rest that go unreported because victims are too embarrassed to admit their gullibility.
Just one victim website, , gets 10,000 hits a day. Plus two dozen messages daily from people who are victims of sextortion; that’s when a person is blackmailed after being persuaded to carry out a sex act on webcam, which is then recorded.
Many scams are not a particularly sophisticated form of fraud, and you might think you’re not going to fall for it.
So just remember the old adage: if it looks too good to be true or not quite right, it probably is. And if you do decide to ‘take the chance’ of untold riches despite utter improbability, well, step this way because I have a bridge to sell you.
Scamming may be an old trick but it’s still an effective one. If you do get scammed, here are a few simple rules:
Drop all contact with the scammer.
Don’t try to track them down – remember, the scammer has your real details and possibly compromising information about you. It’s not worth the risk to continue talking to them, and especially not worth confronting them.
If you sent cash, there’s no realistic way to get it back; beware the ‘recovery scam’ where the scammer then claims to be an agency able to get the money back, for a fee.
Contact the police.
Share as many details about the scam as you can to warn others.
And a final golden rule to use in the first place: Google everything.