Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Be Wary

Considering it’s been a week for scams on ‘Life, What the Hell Is Going On’, I thought I’d take the opportunity to warn my readers of the more common, and fairly convincing ones that you may fall prey to.

The first of these is the ‘Check Mule Scam’.

This scam has many variants, from being disguised as a job, to the more common way it’s used through private sales and Ebay.

Here’s the basic rundown.

You have something for sale, so you put it in the newspaper, list it on Ebay, or some other private sales method.

A few days later you get an email or call from a buyer.

He tells you not to worry about shipping, because he has a friend, associate or private shipping firm in the vicinity, who will pick up the item directly from you. Then he tells you that this friend or whatever already has a cashiers check that he made for a previous buy that fell through. It’s always more than you’ve asked for.

Say you’re selling a car for $5000, he’ll offer you a cashier’s check for around $8000. He’ll then tell you to cash the check, take the five grand he owes you and return the rest to him through Western Union. He’ll also tell you to keep about $500 for your trouble in doing all this.

So it seems great. You’ve sold your item for the full asking price, and you’re getting an extra $500 for about an hour of your time. The courier arrives, takes the item and hands you the check.

The problem comes about 7 days later. You’ve deposited the check, sent the guy his $2500, and bought yourself something nice with the other $500…and then the bank calls you to tell you the check is counterfeit.

So now, you’re out the item you ‘sold’, you’re out $8000 for the fake check, and then the police are interested in you as to why you’re passing phony checks.

This is also a lot more common than you think. I personally know two people who this has been attempted with. Luckily, they smelled something fishy and didn’t go through with it. Plenty of other people have been fooled. After all, it’s perfectly plausible. A guy has had a cashiers check made out to buy something, and it fell through. He can either go through the trouble of having the check cancelled, have a new one issued and send it to you…or he can pay you a couple hundred to do it all for him.

It’s even more plausible when the buy is a big one. Someone who is parting with $10,000 for an item he was supposedly willing to pay $15,000 for, losing $500 to save himself some trouble is easily believable.

The other way this scam works, and I’ve seen it on reputable sites like Careerbuilder and Monster, is that you’re offered a job sending payments to companies on behalf of another fake company.

The ‘job’ entails receiving checks, putting them into your bank account, and forwarding payments to other fake companies, keeping a ‘commission’ (usually around 5%) to yourself.

One victim of the above version found himself out by over $80,000 in less than two weeks. He also ended up going through a very tough time with the police for passing over 150 fake checks.

Oh, and if you’re doing the above ‘job’, and the checks are actually genuine and clearing, I suggest you quit anyway. Another reason for this scam is to launder money. Drug dealers set up an account under a fake name, using fake ID, issue checks to you, and have you forward them to fake companies he uses as a front. Again, you’d have a hard time explaining to the police why you where cashing checks for a drug dealer. Especially if you’ve been doing it for some time.

Basically, be careful. If something smells fishy or sounds too good to be true, give it a wide berth.

The second scam is the lottery scam.

This one is another version of the Nigerian 419 advance fee scam.

This one is simple. You get an email telling you that you’ve won the lottery. Don’t remember entering it? Of course you don’t! This lottery it’s part of a special promotion where ‘tickets’ are attached to email addresses. Your email address was picked randomly, and you’ve won the cash.

This is the point where most people would think “Yeah, whatever!” and have difficulty believing anyone would fall for it. The point here is, I wouldn’t fall for it, chances are you wouldn’t….but the question to ask yourself is, would your little old granny believe it?

Again, that’s what scumbags these people are. They tend to target the elderly and naïve. However, some people just don’t have the experience to know that a lot of the internet is just spam and bullshit. For example, when my mum first got started on the internet, she called me into the bedroom to ask if the pop-up saying she’d just won a lot of money was genuine.

Of course, my Mum is intelligent enough to where she wouldn’t actually send them any money. If she fell for this scam, she’d probably go along with it right up to the point they asked for cash. However, I’m just using her as an example that you can be intelligent and as far from naïve as you can be, and still be taken in if you don’t have the experience.

Anyway, back to the scam.

Attached to the email is a link to a very professional looking website and a phone number. You visit the site and put the ‘reference number’ you got in the email to ‘verify’ you’re a winner. It says you’ve won and you’re instructed to call the number in the email.

You call the number, and you’re told you are indeed a winner. You’re about 15 million richer!

Of course, there are a few snags on the way.

They’re sending ‘representatives’ to your house. They’ll be there in two weeks. However, before they can release the cash to you, you have to get an ‘insurance certificate’ before they’ll give you anything. If you don’t have the insurance certificate in two weeks, you’ll lose out on the cash. They don’t mention anything about money from you yet. They give you the number of their bank to contact about the certificate.

You call the bank, and the certificate is going to cost you anywhere between $1000 and $50,000.

You call the ‘Lottery’ people again, and tell them you don’t have the cash. They tell you, essentially ‘tough shit’. Four other people have already claimed their winnings (there are even pictures of them on the site holding a big check!). They push home the idea “What’s $50,000 when you’re about to get $15,000,000?” Just get a bank loan or something!

So you get a loan, you beg, borrow and steal from friends. You send the cash to the bank and…

And that’s it. You never hear from them again. Either that or another ‘problem’ pops up. Taxes, fees, you name it. You need to send them more money to get your ‘winnings’.

I can’t stress how evil these people are. They’re scum, the lowest of the low.

As a perfect example, I’m baiting two scammers right now. (I won’t publish any details as the bait is ongoing, and the scammers know how to google).

One believes he’s currently scamming a church, a church that has a large fund for donations to charity…and the other thinks he’s scamming a 70 year old widow out of the money her dead husband left her. A previously baited a scammer who thought he was scamming money out of a struggling private orphanage!

In conclusion, be wary of scammers or anything that seems too good to be true. If you’re interested in baiting scammers, please contact me and I’ll give you the details on how to do it safely.

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