The best way to strengthen a society and increase development, they say, is to improve health, education and other services for its citizens. Over the years the government and people of many nations have sort to ensure that these necessities are met by employing the most up to date advances and trends in science and technology. This has helped to foster and develop a better place for all men. However, these innovations and scientific developments have also come with a cost; a price manifested in negative effects such as fraud.
Enter the world of the internet otherwise known as the World Wide Web. This innovation in particular can without doubt be described as one of the greatest innovations to shape the fate of mankind. Nevertheless, like most human innovation and inventions, the internet has become a tool used by criminals to cheat, defraud and deceive other unsuspecting users. This is the crux of this piece.
The media around the world is awash with stories of scams particularly those allegedly perpetuated by Nigerians to rip off unsuspecting internet users of their monies. However, this piece will dwell on; how to tell a scam email, what to do when you receive a scam email and how to avoid becoming a victim of scam emails allegedly branded as “The Nigerian Crime”. – A slandering tag that has become a source of embarrassment for all honest and hardworking Nigerians. This is the premise upon which I have decided to pen down this “Two Can Play the Game” piece. This essay will discuss the matter in a few sub headings; most common scams, how to tell a scam email, and what to do when you get a scam email.
Most Common scams;
It is almost impossible to do anything these days without the internet from banking, teaching, medicine, business to mention a few. The internet is therefore a honey pot of information. No hyperbole. Often described as one of mankind’s greatest innovations yet, it is versatile, indispensible, invaluable and useful. The lives of the millions of users of the internet depend on it to carry out these day to day activities which require users to gain access to, validate, and exchange information and personal details each day. This unfortunately also makes it a veritable tool for criminals. Many users are required to produce their personal and financial details such credit and debit cards while accessing certain websites while carrying out transactions on the internet. This in turn is preyed upon the cyber criminals who spent hours daily phishing out the personal details of unsuspecting internet users. Very often the criminals successfully hack these databases and steal such information which is used to steal the victim’s money, identity or other vital information. This means in fact that the largest proportion of cybercrimes is monetary and identity theft using information posted on the internet by users themselves. A good example at the moment is the widespread Interswitch Nigeria/ATM scam emails asking people to supply their debit information with passwords and personal details. My dear reader, truth is neither Interswitch Nigeria nor ANY BANK, by law, has the RIGHT WHATSOEVER to ask customers for their details and WILL NOT REQUEST IT. Therefore anyone or group requesting this kind of information especially via email is a sham, so BEWARE!!!. Be also advised that the scammers are also improving day by day. It has been reported that scammers now design and host “clone” websites i.e. sites that look identical to certain service credit or debit card companies, which they use to steal the pins and information of unsuspecting people. Again the victim is the interswitchng.com website which was recently discovered has been “cloned” by scammers. Other examples of scams are; the Greencard/Diversity Visa Lottery, Money Lottery scams, job opportunities scams. These scams in particular are the most popular. They are usually sent via emails to a large number of people regularly and are perpetuated by new entrants into the business.
How to tell a Scam;
Like most criminals, scammers leave behind footprints in their trail. Some of these are easily discernable while others are more difficult to point out. One of the easiest ways to tell a scam is from the email address of the sender. This is one mistake most, if not all email scammers make. For instance, scammers parading themselves as genuine staffs of multinationals often send out emails with email addresses using yahoo.fr, yahoo.co.uk, hotmail.com, gmail domains. For instance, a scammer parading as a central Bank of Nigeria staff sending across vital information using a yahoo account email is blatantly out to scam the receiver of the email. Beware!!! More importantly, any keen observer or internet user should know that large firms (even in Nigeria) have their own customized email/email domain/services, hence will NEVER, for credibility and authenticity sake, use emails address from a domain like yahoo or gmail etc. Secondly, such emails, if truly sent from the firm concerned, will never be copied to anyone else, since such firms treat such official dispatches with utmost confidentiality. Thirdly, the email addresses used by scammers cannot be replied to. This means that victims of the scammers cannot reply to the scammer who is in fact parading his/her firm as a genuine company. This in fact a sign that such an email is a scam, because large firms treat customer responses with utmost importance and unless otherwise stated, the customers can/should be able to reply or air their grievances and or concerns to the firm. Another easy way to spot a scam is the diction of the scammer. One characteristic feature of these emails is that they are usually frothing with a myriad of unimaginable grammatical errors which can easily be spotted from the onset by a keen observer. This is rather strange for a standard business letter of the caliber the scammers will have you believe their emails are. This arises from the fact most of these email scams are usually coined up by persons with a poor command of written and spoken English in internet cafes around big cities.
What to do when you receive a scam email;
This is often the malady faced by many recipients of scam emails. First they are not sure what to think of it, others are too ignorant of what is going on, others are eaten up by greed and hence fall prey. The best thing to do is simply delete the email. But first copy the email address of the sender, open the mail or settings option of your email provider and paste in it there as spam. Henceforth you will not receive emails from that address again as it has been blocked. If this too complicated, simply deleting the mail could be a good option. This in effect will prevent the scammer using that address to email you again. Secondly, never reply to the said address, because many people are often tempted to reply the scam sender with a nasty email. The downside is that your email address will remain in their pool and can be used over and over again.
How to avoid receiving scam emails;
Like all con artists scammers have over time improved upon their trade. They have put up more up to date email addresses and devised other new methods of deception like building and hosting clone websites. In truth, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell a scam. Recently I came across a “cloned” Interswitch Nigeria site and had to look very closely to be able to tell the difference from the genuine site. So how can one avoid receiving such emails? Here are a few steps. One, never leave or openly display your email address on any website where others can see e.g. on online forums and websites where others post comments or opinions. Secondly, do not indulge in forwarding emails from known and unknown sources. A good example is the emails that friends and relations forward asking you send
to others claiming it’s a prayer or some religious or miraculous manifestation promising you divine favor from God. No offence to the religious types out there, but this is a source of countless number of email addresses for scammers and internet fraudsters. These emails are created by scammers to gather email addresses of unsuspecting internet users to be used for nefarious intentions.
In summary, I will like to state that though these steps cannot guarantee that one will not receive scam emails, they will at least minimize your chances. The internet is a very useful innovation; we cannot let fraudsters use it as a tool to cause havoc.