As a descendant of European immigrants, I am sure that I am related to someone in Africa, right?
Everyone has heard about the early days of E-mail scams that promised riches if you would just reconnect with your Rich Ethiopian Uncle / King / or whatever. The problem is that most people who received these emails had no African roo
ts, but hey who isn’t open to FREE money from a rich person, right!
Well as you guessed it, it was too good to be true and a lot of people were hurt by these individual’s Social Engineering (Deception) tactics. Well it would be nice to say that this tactic is so old that no one ever falls for those tricks anymore, but alas no! I can say that a close family member became one of their targets and quickly gave up some very hard earned money hoping of hitting it big! Unfortunately, this family member had been taught on numerous occasions what to look out for, but his youth and inexperience cost him around $1800 before he finally stopped giving them money.
Here is the scenario:
You are a college student who is beginning to take on college debt and you get an e-mail from the US Department of Grants and Student Loans (DGSL), which does not exist. The e-mail states: “You are qualified to receive over $15K in grant money because you qualify as a (fill in the blank – Under privileged, poor, White, Black, Hispanic, single mother, etc….) individual. Contact us immediately at the above e-mail address or phone number to begin the processing your application so you can get your FREE cash!”
You start thinking, “This is great I am going to get FREE money from some rich person that I don’t even know!” Giddy Up!
So you send an email to the DGSL and magically you get an e-mail back immediately informing you that your application for the FREE money is almost done and you contacted them just in time. Hooray! However, to finalize everything you need to send in immediately (oh let’s say) $300, as a processing fee to get your $15,000 out the door the quickest way possible. Well you think, I have spend money to make money, so why not. So you send them the money and wait.
They then contact you and say that they need another $1500 to make sure you get all the cash that you are entitled to and wait there is more….you now qualify for $30,000! Awesome! So let’s just send them some more money!
Well, weeks go by and nothing, Uh-Oh! Houston, we have problem.
This scenario is all too common and everyone experiences it at some point. The key here is to be educated on discovering the ruse and stopping it early before it goes too far. Below are some ideas on how you can reduce your expose from being scammed by these types of attacks.
- Don’t Call Me, I’ll Call You– If you didn’t reach out to these people (E-mail, Phone, Mail, etc…) then it is HIGHLY likely it is fraud
- Too Good To Be True– If the item you receive sounds too good to be true, it is! You will not get something for FREE, especially online, unless you give up something in return (E-mail, Address, Money, Etc…).
- Search It Out– Google / Bing / Yahoo / etc… are your friends. In this scenario, if you looked up DGSL, there probably would be several hits around this company and fraud.
- Better Business Bureau– In the United States, contact the Better Business Bureau in your area for guidance on getting information about company that has solicited you. If you are somewhere outside of the U.S., your country/community may have similar business organizations you can leverage for guidance.
- Scarcity– These attacks almost always use the idea of scarcity making it crucial that you MUST act now, or you will lose out! If this offer is so good then it shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations around your response. If it is good today, it will be good tomorrow and if not…you don’t want it!
- Avoid Emotions– When these various types of correspondence show up and their goal is to play off of your emotions to make snap or rash decisions. Avoid this at all costs and let a few days go by before responding to any contact. Refer to Tip #5.
- Ask Questions– If you still feel the need to proceed, then contact the site directly and start asking specific questions, but only do this when you feel this offer is 99% legitimate
- Problems with Contact:
- If you do decide to contact them keep in mind they now have your information now and they know that you are interested
- They can and will lie to you and tell you whatever you want to hear
- Call Law Enforcement– If you have been a victim of this type of crime, it is important that you call the authorities and file a report. This will trigger some other actions behind the scenes and it may be possible that your information could be critical in putting these people in prison.
- If you paid money– Contact your financial institution about changing account information. They may come after the rest of your cash!
- Problems with Contact:
Bottom-line: Trust No One (Especially, if you don’t know them!) My family member was burned by these people and he was routinely taught the dangers growing up and still was manipulated. If you incorporate these tips into your life, the risk to you and your family will be significantly reduced by online scams.