A Century of Notorious Scam Mails and Fraudsters

by Adewale T. Akande

“ Did you know Charlie?” was an advert placed in a UK local newspapers in 2004. As it was reported by Matt Roper on pages 14 and 15 of Daily Mirror, Wednesday, December 22nd , 2004. The advert read thus: “Charlie Dufar, 81. died recently, leaving a substantial sum of money to be divided amongst his friends. We have been appointed to trace friends of Charlie in order to distribute these funds. Charlie was a widower, who lived in Rail Street for the last 12 years of his life. He was a keen football fan and spent evenings in the Mariners Arms. Did you know Charlie?. Please contact us and include brief details of your relationship with Mr Dufar..” According to Roper, the Daily Mirror reporter, “ There was only one problem: Charlie never actually existed. We made him up- to see if anyone would try to stake a claim on his cash. Our adverts appeared in newspapers up and down the country, with fake firm of solicitors Smith-Gregory & Partners as a contact address. Within days our mail was bursting with touching memories and heart-warming stories from Charlie’s choked-up friends and colleagues. Nobody clocked the fact his surname is an anagram of “fraud”, nor that his last residence – Rail Street – is “liar” spelt backwards” That is to show you the extend that unreasonable and greedy people could fall into victim of these scam fraudsters.

As technology advances since the world wide web (www) became accessible on a household level, it has help introduce new methods, ideas or products which has proved to have many merits –but also demerits. Criminals become more sophisticated in the methods they use to steal from people. An intentional deception made for person gain or to damage another individual is a fraud. The internet makes it easier for these scammers, con artists and other online miscreants to carry out their nevarious crimes to pursue the shortest path to personal richest which never last. These internet crooks use different schemes or proposals ranging from sharing or disbursement substantial sum of money or property of a rich man who died recently, an unsolicited lottery, mail-box notifications, online job postings, work-from-home scams, fraudulent telephone calls, rental and real estate scams, conversion of hard currency, sale of crude oil or gold dust at below market prices, africa relief funds fraud, fake returned package (reshipping), third party receiver of funds or promise of easy money which might seem like a dream come true. 419 is perpetrated by enticing the victim a proposal which promises huge some of Pounds Sterlling or Dollars as a reward. I do not believe that there is a living soul on earth who have not receive a spam mail (unsolicited email) or an advance fee fraud letter of any sort. It is now everyday routine to encounter scam mails in your junk mail box especially the most recent “Account User Verification / Notification” from fake Hotmail or Yahoo subscribers aiming to retrieve their victim email personal data.

Meanwhile, the categories of these fraudulent schemes and business proposals fall into many categories.These include; identity theft, copycat websites, wills disbursement or transfer of money or goods from deposed rich or African leaders, phising or spoofing, contract fraud, internet scams (lottery,auction, employment, investment scams etc) and the popular Nigerian 419 email scam. Identity theft is when someone known or unknown appropriates another’s personal information without their knowledge to commit theft or fraud. These personal information includes people’s names, dates of birth, credit card numbers, card expiry dates, personal e-mail and passwords, international passport numbers, identity card data, banks account numbers and statements and other data taking from public records.

Copycat website is another way fraudsters imitate websites of genuine financial institutons or companies and are designed in order to lure people into revealing private data and giving them access to their hard earned money. Their imitations will be in the same format with similar website name to fool the users unless they are paying close attention. The copycat website may contain unauthorised links to the websites of other reputable company to induce a sense of genuiness. Their establishment is a fake or do not exist. Their mission is completed after tricking unsuspecting users out of parting with their money. Then, the website exist no more. The very best way to check the legitimacy of the website is to look for a security icon, usually in the form of a lock. Right click on your mouse and click on the properties label. If the URL website address is different from the address bar, it is likely to be counterfeit. Avoid remitting any funds or giving personal information until you are satisfied that the website is genuine. Also, you can check with the relevant regulators to see if the establishment is registered.

Will disbursement or transfer of money or goods from deposed rich or African leaders is just exactly the case of Charlie Dufar explained in the beginning of this piece.The story normally goes with a very rich African leaders who died and left a large amount of funds or raw gold or property. It is only a fool or a greedy human being that usually falls to the victim of this crooked-up story. Their plans could be quickly discovered as a fraud when you got a letter from unknown person trying to involve you in such a large amount of funds, saying that you should not inform anybody about the deal and urge you to act without delay. It is funny that most of their stories are always written in the same form, featuring malapropisms, tortures syntax and misspellings.

Phishing or spoofing is another form of internet fraud vial e-mail which is forged to appear as though it was sent by someone other than the actual source. The fraudsters or hoaxers will send the emails purporting to come from your bank or other company or financial institution requesting you to click on a link to update or verify account details and disclose personal financial data such as bank account or credit card numbers, internet account user names, passwords and personal indentification number (PIN). They always threaten to suspend your account if you do not act or comply as soon as possible. The best solution for such a mail is to contact your bank or company immediately with all detail information you received. Phone phising is almost the same with the email message. The fraudster will call and claim to be from your bank or financiacial institution, advising you of a fraud scam going around and asking you to confirm your banking identity details. Avoid giving your personal data on phone.

The lottery, auction, employment, investment scams are other types of “get rich quick opportunities” common in all peoples’ inbox messages. These internet crooks tell victims they won a lottery, but they must pay the taxes and processing fees upfront. They trick you to send these fee before eventually send you a fake check. There is no point in contacting anybody if you do not remember entering a lottery. Auction fraud is misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale or the non-delivery of products purchased through an internet auction site. The employment and investment frauds also aim to retrieve the prospective employees and victims personal information to defraud them and their families by making fraudulent claims to apply for loans or purchase items. The investment scams also known as Ponzi or Pyramid schemes are tricks in which investors are promised abnormally high profits on their investment. At the end, no investment is actually made. Beware of any deal that charge a fee prior to delivering your prize or promise additional money as a requirement to be eligible for future winnings or profits. People should always be vigilant with online transactions.

The most popular Nigerian advance fee fraud letter or &#8220

;419” was named after the section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code which addresses frauds schemes combine with the threat of impersonation with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter. email, or fax is received by the potential victim. This scam operates by sending an unsolicited fax, email, or letter often concerning Nigeria or another African nation to the targetted victim. The subject matter contains either a money laundering or illegal proposal which always involve a large amounts of funds-usually millions of US Dollars. The scammers will promise their trusted “unknown” victim a healthy percentage of these funds as commission as soon as the funds are out of the country. The victim is encouraged to send his personal information such as blank letterhead stationary, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information without delay to the author (fraudster). The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim to send money to the author of the letter in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons. At the end, this large amount of funds does not exist. This Nigerian 419 scam is so popular that there are more than hundred private and public groups and websites dedicated to fight this plague and their perpetrators. It is advisable to file any complaint on 419 scam with the Nigeria Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on www.efccnigeria.org and with the Central Bank of Nigeria Anticorruption Unit on www.cenbank.org ( anticorruptionunit@cenbank.org ) .

Finally, there is no doubt that the twenty first century criminal is a plague with the touch of the worldwide web at fingertips. Internet scams are various and rife. They are also ingenious and dangerous. Scam is scandalous, a ruin to the nation and humanity. In order to combat the internet fraud and threat, security companies have been pushing to develop new protection models. They are promoting items like fingerprint scanners and face recognition on devices, and tools that can disable a device or freeze the data it holds from afar, if an attack is reported. Many companies and people are using internet to take your money. In order to reduce your chances of becoming a victim, it is more important and advisable not respond to unsolicited email (spam) talk-less of giving your personal information. The same thing applies to links contained with unknown e-mails. We have to be extra vigilant when disposing of bank statements, checks, receipts, bills and credit cards. Passwords for all financial accounts should be changed regularly. If you are asked to act quickly from any e-mail received, it may be a scam because fraudsters always create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly. It is advisable not to keep security numbers, PINs or passwords in your purse or wallet, or store in your mobile phone, PC or laptop. It is now a collective responsibility of every citizen to fight these internet crooks that is giving our beloved country a bad name because no nation can develop with fraud and corruption. The fact is that, it is much harder to maintain a web of deceit and malpractice than it is to make use of internet sea of information and opportunities to develop oneself, people and community successfully. You may defraud others, from a distance; but close up, you defraud yourself. All parents should talk about internet use and safety in general with their children. Internet as a saviour is not the future as many people think. It is the present and we – the people – are the future.

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