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Don't Be Fooled by Scammers
they are only interested in taking your money

I've mentioned this subject before (The Cyber Minefield: Focus F10; and Scammers: Money Matters MM13). I daresay I'll continue banging on about it in the future; because, it would seem, scams are rife, and people continue to be duped, despite frequent warnings. Just the other day, a man in his eighties was reported to have been tricked out of $300,000. He lost his money via the Internet, so he was obviously familiar with this particular medium; which begs the question: why did he not see it coming?

This case was all about love - the need for finding it, and the online offer of a relationship that was a swindle from start to finish. The unfortunate man must have seen the warnings and known the risks, surely; but maybe the chance of no longer being lonely was too tempting to pass up. Over a period of two years he sent sums of money to a person in another country, believing the investment would see the two of them eventually meeting and getting together. It never happened, of course. The woman wasn't interested in friendship, just his cash. She may not even have been a woman. How would anyone know? False online profiles are all-too easy to set up, and the picture that looks so attractive frequently masks an extremely ugly face.

Like so many, this man went looking for love and found heartache instead. There are, however, quite a few scams where first contact is made by the criminal. The Inheritance fraud is a classic. Imagine receiving an email suggesting the possibility that some long-dead relative or benefactor has willed you a small fortune. You would probably think: yeah, yeah, pull the other leg it's got bells on; but not everyone is as mistrusting, apparently. This con works in a similar way to the marriage proposal, requiring certain payments to be made in order to facilitate release of the inheritance. There are searches to be made and legal fees to be met, the responsibility for which ought to be borne by the beneficiary. The law firm handling the estate makes nothing until the bequest is finalised, so it couldn't be expected to pay up-front expenses. Law firm, did I say? You'd have to be pretty naive to believe that! Never transfer money for advance fees; and always check the authenticity of any suspicious contact by instituting an online search of the handling agent, plus by typing in the exact wording of the offer. More often than not, both will show up as bogus.

The fact that some people fall for this type of scam could be down to any number of things, from plain greed to the fear of missing out on a genuine windfall. A different kind of fear is used to actually frighten people out of their money. This is a phone scam. Someone rings up claiming to be an officer of the tax department. According to them, a certain outstanding sum of tax remains unpaid. If the person they are phoning doesn't hang up immediately and starts to argue the toss, the voice on the line becomes increasingly insistent to the point of threatening legal action if the amount owed is not paid. The ones who cave in to this pressure are often seniors who are easily confused and intimidated, or those individuals whose finances are a mess and wouldn't have a clue whether their tax is fully paid up or not. So, they give over their bank details, and their money's gone - not to the taxman who knows nothing about this bogus phone conversation, but to a complete stranger with an aggressive attitude. What these gullible targets have failed to realise is that the tax department doesn't do business this way, and never would. The only safe way to handle this situation is to give the phone caller nothing, then ring the tax department for confirmation. Reporting the call to the Police Cyber-Crime squad would also be a good idea - they definitely won't forgive and forget!

Here's another one - "Congratulations! You are a Winner". It's the money-for-nothing scam, frequently directed from overseas where you have apparently been selected as the potential winner of some lottery, competition, or whatever. Who's a lucky puppy, then? The scammer will be if you let yourself be sucked in. Before receiving the "prize" you'll have to pay certain fees and taxes, then some more until you finally twig that you are being taken for a very expensive ride. By this time it's too late, you are a lot poorer and there's precious little you can do to get your money back.

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