Thursday, January 06, 2011

Recognizing Scams

I received a notice on Facebook to ignore a mass email that went out with a cousin's email address. The email was hacked and is a request for money to be sent. The scam reminded of an email I had received from a church member awhile ago. Since I knew his writing style and sense of humour (his jokes can get kind of cheesy), when I received the email, I knew something was fishy about it. For one thing, the email had said that he was in Scotland and needed financial help from family and friends after being robbed. Since he is married with a young daughter and does not come across as the type to travel overseas on a whim, I figured that his email account had been hacked into. Besides the outlandish scenario, the writing style was not him, as it claimed that after being robbed, he was crying like a girl. I just didn't see him writing the way the email read. It was bizarre.

In this latest scam, I had received word from my cousin BEFORE I read her email. Even then, I would have been hard pressed to believe it was her because the writing style does not really match hers. Additionally, she lives on a farm with her dairy farmer husband and has four children, so I would've found it hard to believe that she would travel to England with her family (that trip would be more expensive than they are likely to afford).

Here is the cheesy email sent by a hacking fraudster whose grammar skills are sorely lacking:

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes,my family and I came down here to (Buckingham shire) United Kingdom, for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed,all cash,credit cards and cell were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.

I have been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves pretty soon from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills. your contribution will go along way here. Please be so kind to reply back so i can tell you what to do and how to get some cash to us...

I guess this is the new trend in online fraud, since everyone is likely familiar with the exiled Nigerian leader who needs our help funneling his millions of dollars through banks. Why do so many online scams have a Nigerian connection?

So, in case my email accounts ever get hacked and you receive an email with my name attached, I hope that you know me well enough that you won't fall for such a scheme. For one thing, I'm a good speller, so check for spelling and my writing style is far better than the fraud email is likely to have. Secondly, I'm in no financial situation to travel overseas in the next few years. If I do travel, you will likely hear about my plans. Having traveled to the United Kingdom, its not on my list of dream travel destinations. I want to see Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Thailand, and Tahiti. If I revisit any places I've been before, it will likely be Paris and France, more than any other nation. If I see Africa again, it'll likely be South Africa (Cape Town this time). So, that's another thing to check for.

If I am ever in a real emergency, my closest friends and family can expect a phone call. I would never write an email for something as serious as needing money to get back home.

As for settling hotel bills, I think it would be paid up front and I would never stay in an expensive place. I'm more of a hostel / low budget kind of traveler. I certainly would not rack up room service charges, such as pay-per-view movies, mini-bar, and ordering food delivered to the room.

Its a shame that there are so many greedy people in the world always trying to scam people out of money. Unfortunately, there are people like my brother who fall for every scam ever devised. He had asked me last week, "How do you know someone is lying?" For me, its a sense that something about their story does not add up. What my brother does not understand is that the smartest thing you can do for yourself is read a lot and have diverse life experience dealing with different people. I look for consistency because I believe that the truth is consistent. This belief has saved me from falling for any religious or financial or political claim some fraudster charlatan dreams of concocting on me. I believe it is important to know more than the other person I'm dealing with. I think I have a good ability to discern others and their true intentions. I also emit a "don't mess with me" vibe. When an extroverted person initiates a conversation with me, I'm naturally reserved and automatically have a sense that they want something from me. When I learn what it is, they usually move on because I called them out on their true intentions.

My advice? Don't get scammed. If you ever receive an email such as what I posted above, ask yourself questions: does the writing sound like something your friend or relative would write? Do they have a history of traveling or can they afford to travel? Does something about the email seem a bit off? If you have doubts at all, that is your intuition sending you a message to pay attention to. Don't be a sucker. Greedy people do not deserve money, especially not a cent of yours. They can earn money the honest way.

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