We’ve all heard the story – a vulnerable, elderly woman answers the phone, and loses all of her life savings to a con artist. Unfortunately, the reality is that we are all vulnerable to scams regardless of our age, gender, or income. And if you think you are immune, then you may be the most vulnerable of all.
This issue is particularly salient considering the growth of information technology. With wide use of email and virtual communication, a whole new marketplace has opened up to scam artists. Today, we’ll focus on some common scams that are penetrating our virtual worlds.
Reshipping/Postal Forwarding Scam
You get an email from somebody you’ve never met requesting that you become a “correspondence manager” or something else of the like. The scam can vary. But there’s usually a pile of money waiting to be deposited into a bank account, or maybe goods that need to be shipped overseas. By depositing the money or receiving the goods, you get a percentage of the money transferred or goods shipped.
Sound simple? An easy way to make a profit? BEWARE! What actually happens, is that the products are purchased using stolen credit cards. They are then shipped to your address, and then you ship them overseas. Or, the money is transferred into your account, thus obscuring the paper trail, and you transfer it to the thieves. Not only have you become an accessory that could land some legal trouble, but you might even find your bank account wiped clean!
Before you fall prey to this scam, ask yourself, “Why can’t they just ship to their own address?”
“Congratulations! You’ve won an Xbox” (or ipad, computer, plasma tv, etc.)
You’re pretty excited when you open your email and see that you are indeed a lucky winner. But wait. Before you claim your prize, recognize the scam.
You will likely be asked to provide a credit card number for “shipping and handling”. The item never arrives. Months later, you see unknown charges starting to appear on your statement. The “prize winning” was simply a ruse the thieves used to get your credit card information.
There’s also a variation of this scam that can be perhaps less damaging but extremely annoying. The setup is similar – you’ve won a prize – but the goal is your email address. After providing your address, you are the victim of a multitude of spam and unwanted email.
So next time you are notified of an exciting prize win, ask yourself, “When did I enter a draw for this prize?” Chances are, you didn’t and it’s a scam!
“I’d like to rent your apartment and will send the rent immediately.”
This one is becoming increasingly common. You’ve posted an apartment listing online. You then receive an email from somebody who lives out of the area, most likely overseas, and they would like to immediately rent the apartment. There is usually some matter of urgency (e.g., moving immediately). And of course, they are willing to send the rent immediately.
The scammer here is really looking for your bank account information so they can send you the rent. But instead of a deposit, you might end up with a huge withdrawal! So recognize this scam and protect yourself. Be weary of anybody who is willing to “rent” an apartment without ever contacting you or even asking questions. And NEVER give out your bank account information to a stranger. There are plenty of ways to transfer money if somebody truly wants to rent your apartment– ways that won’t put your finances in jeopardy (e.g., paypal, cheque, legit companies such as Western Union).
Before you rent to this new tenant, ask yourself, “Why is he so eager?”
What happens? Your bank sends an email warning you that your account has been put at risk. In order to protect yourself, you’ll need to login in and provide your account information. Hurry! Because if you don’t do this soon, your account will be deactivated.
What the email fails to mention, is that it is a scam and if you DO follow the directions, your account will be cleaned out! If you are concerned that it might be legit, stop and see the staff at your local branch – IN PERSON! They can answer any questions you have, and clarify that it’s a scam.
And it you need further incentive, just ask yourself, “Wouldn’t my bank contact me by phone if the matter is this urgent?”