Over the last twelve months New Zealanders were taken for more than 4.4 million dollars in Internet scams. The World Wide Web provides underhanded users with a forum of convenience and ease with which to pilfer money from the naïve, the greedy and the downright stupid.
Prior to reading my opening statement one could have be forgiven for believing that this kind of duplicity would be restricted to the rest of the world or in fact, any country but ours.
The sad truth is that NZ is as much a target for Internet fraud as any nation.
Probably the most well known and indeed the most enduring, is the ‘Nigerian Scam’. It dates back to the 1920s where it was referred to as the ‘Spanish Prisoner Scam’.
In today’s Nigerian Scam, an unsuspecting soul will receive an email from a wealthy Nigerian family or similar, requiring assistance with the task of moving a large sum of money out of the country.
‘But why?’ You need to ask yourself.
A common adaptation of the same basic con is a woman claiming to have been recently bereft of her husband, and who wants to leave millions of dollars from his estate to her church. In both cases they require money, curiously, for legal or transaction fees but of course promise in return a salubrious cut of the aforementioned funds.
Understandably the allure of such a hefty payoff helps the sucker in question to overlook any deficits in logic; then once the money has been paid, providing the scammer doesn’t suddenly incur more ‘unexpected costs’, that will be the end of it.
No money will ever be received because, simply, there never was any – that’s why they needed yours.
So what about the, ‘Advanced Fees Paid for Guaranteed Loan or Credit Card Scam’? Advanced…? Fees..? Paid..? Gosh, it all sounds mighty appealing..?
Take a moment. Think about it. A little known bank offering pre-approved loans or credit cards, but requiring an advanced payment..? Admittedly, as scams go, this is among the weaker as holes in its fabric become obvious with inspection.
Realistically there is no legitimate bank in the world which charges an up-front fee.
Ah, the ‘Lottery Scam’. How can we lose, right?
Well apparently, according to the email, you’ve already won. Congratulations on that. Couple of million dollars is all yours and all you need to do is pay a small, one time processing fee of one, sorry, make it two, thousand dollars.
This is ridiculous; the fact that you don’t even play the lottery seems also to have escaped you – courtesy of the forgetting influence of becoming an overnight millionaire.
Then there’s the ‘Phishing Emails and Phony Web Pages Scam’.
Phishing is where online shitheads use convincing emails and Web pages of, ironically, online threats or dangers to lure that foolish somebody into divulging their password, ID and banking details to genuine-looking, but fabricated sites such as Citibank, eBay or Paypal.
It’s amazing what somebody will do when they’re put under pressure; naturally, protecting oneself against nefarious Internet entities is top priority. Furthermore, since the site appears credible, what harm can come from disclosing your details..?
No prizes for guessing what happens next.
The principle of the ‘Items for Sale Overpayment Scam’ is equally as stupid as the person who falls for it.
It goes like this: somebody advertising an expensive item online receives an email from abroad, informing them that yes, they are keen to purchase this item but on account of international freight costs, additional fees and the like, will need to pay significantly more than the asking price. In return, on receipt of payment of course, the seller is asked to send the sold item along with the cash difference; thereby covering the buyer for postage fees. The seller will likely receive payment in the form of a money order which they will promptly deposit. The monetary value of the sold item will remain in their account; the difference will be withdrawn in cash. The item, along with the extra cash will then be sent abroad.
It will later be revealed that the money order deposited, was fake. The bank now requires that money to be paid back. Therefore, in total the online seller has lost his valuable item; has lost the additional value of that item; has lost the freight costs incurred by the item.
The ‘Employment Search Overpayment Scam’ is classic Internet theft.
As an unemployed but technologically efficient youth, you no doubt have your resume posted somewhere online. It mightn’t surprise you therefore, when you receive a job offer from some company somewhere – you’ll never admit to having never heard of them. They might want you to become a financial rep and to handle those tricky payments from the US, which for an undisclosed reason they have been finding challenging. You might be promised a pay rate of up to 15 percent per transaction.
Sounds awesome. Of course on application you provide this apparent employer with your personal data, including bank account details into which you will be paid, and the ball keeps rolling from there. On reaching the bottom of the hill, you might be experiencing a hint of identity theft, stolen funds from your bank account or better yet, you might be receiving cheques which you deposit into your account, with the instruction that you send all but your 15% cut to this false employer.
In this case, the bank will need to be reimbursed for all those phony cheques you’ve been depositing and drawing upon.
The inventor of the ‘Disaster Relief Scam’ clearly wasn’t big on details. It’s a very basic con. An innocent computer user receives an email pleading for a donation to assist those stricken victims of a recent disaster, the compassionate soul pledges how ever much, revels in the warmth brought about by the act of doing good, and will probably never even find out that they gave their money to a fabricated charity.
‘Travel Scams’ are less criminal and more deceptive. A keen traveller might receive an offer of superb airfares to a fabulous destination via pressurised Email – buy now, offer expires in two hours – only to later find that while the flights are cheap, accommodation is grossly exorbitant. They’ve already paid for the deal and cancellation in this case, is never easy.
‘Make Money Fast Chain Email Scams’ are seemingly designed to entrap preschoolers, or perhaps the mentally impaired among us.
Classic pyramid scheme. You send five dollars to the person at the top of the list, add your name to the bottom then forward it on. Your turn will come soon enough. Great riches coming your way. For sure. You’ve seen the evidence. You’ve read the testimonials; they all appear above board – some people have made millions.
Honestly..? Just think about it. One person gets rich. The same person who is controlling the scam and continually adjusting the list so his name is always on top.
The ‘Turn Your Computer Into a Moneymaking Machine Scam’ is more of a scheme for arseholes than a scam. Simply, one idiot sends another idiot money in exchange for instructions on where to go and what to do to turn your computer into this fabled moneymaking machine.
The advice essentially shows you how to become a professional spammer – not scammer, spammer.
You probably will end up making money, it just won’t be yours. That is to say, you’ll never see it. Like modern day parasites they will be feeding off you, who is in turn feeding off the rest of the cyber world.
Money aside, how many hearts do you think have been ripped out and trodden on by ‘Online Dating Scams’? Pictures of beautiful women who probably died years’ ago; glorious, engaging personalities fronting the pernicious business of which her husband and she are probably partners.
The world of Internet scams is a truly dark place. Honestly, you’re a shithead if you initiate them and you’re a shithead if you perpetuate them.
Don’t be a shithead.
Article by Mit Reklaw
Edited by A R Seoul
Photography by Yeran R Swaip & Chet Tadd