Crooks In Action – The Scams

"419" or Advance Fee Frauds
Nigeria is the classic source of this type of email fraud, and they are known as "419 frauds" because Nigerian crooks violate Section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code.
   There are many formats for these scams, e.g. lawyers looking for someone to pretend to be the next of kin of someone who has died and left behind a large sum of money; government officials trying to move contract overpayments out of their country, victims of political persecution trying to move their assets abroad and people who claim to be Christians with cancer, who want to give millions of dollars to a good cause before they croak.
   In every case, millions of dollars are on offer, and in every case, the scammer will need the victim to cough up an "advance fee", i.e. some cash to bribe corrupt officials, pay customs fees, etc. Naturally, there are no millions of dollars and the scammers will drop the victim like a hot brick once he/she has coughed up some cash.

The Counterfeit Cashier's Cheque / Excess Payment Scam
The victim is asked to pay a (counterfeit) cashier's cheque into his/her account, deduct 10% and send the rest to the scammer, usually via Western Union. Seeing a cashier's cheque usually persuades the bank to release the cash immediately or after a few days; and before the cheque has cleared. The victim then sends the balance of the payment. Anything up to 6 weeks later, the bank tells the victim that the cheque was fraudulent and the victim is liable for the full amount.
   A variation is to send the victim a counterfeit cashier's check for hundreds, or thousands, of dollars more than the price of goods for sale or a service. The scammer then asks the victim to use some of the excess to pay shipping costs or other expenses and return the balance.

Lottery Scams
These crooks sometimes use the names of legitimate lottery operators, e.g. the EuroMillions lottery and the British national lottery, in an attempt to persuade the victim that he/she has won lots of cash in a lottery draw based on email addresses. If someone tries to claim a prize, he/she is asked for a fee for processing the claim, paying local taxes on the win, etc. before the money can be released. Of course, there is no prize and the only person who ever pays out any cash is the victim of the scam.
Note: It is a sound rule that if you didn't enter a lottery, you can't win it. And no genuine lottery operator is going to hand out prizes at random to people who haven't coughed up the price of a ticket.

Offers of Non-Existent Jobs
The scammer claims to have a business in one country, and offers an apparently attractive job as an agent in another country to a complete stranger. The victim is generally expected to pay money into his/her bank account, deduct a fee and then pay the rest of the cash to a local company.
   The scammer could be planning to supply the victim with stolen cheques from genuine bank accounts, which will not be exposed as worthless until long after the victim has paid out a big chunk of money. The scammer could also be planning to gain access to the victim's bank account details and plunder the account. Alternatively, it is easy for a scammer to extract enough personal details from a trusting prospective 'employee' and steal that person's identity for criminal purposes.

Penny Stocks
The aim is to get lots of people to buy a cheap, "penny" stock. This will rush the price up as it trades at a low volume. The crooks plan to dump their holding as close as possible to the peak trading price and make a nice profit. The price then drops, leaving the mugs who bought the shares on the strength of an email tip-off from a complete stranger with a hole in their pocket.
Note: The company named in the spam is usually unaware that the scam is taking place.

Phishing Scams
The aim is to get people worried about the security of their money and trick them into visiting a website which is an exact copy of the site belonging to a bank, auction house, etc. The victim is then invited to supply personal information, e.g credit card numbers and account details, and to confirm (or change) passwords. The crooks then use this information to make illegal credit card purchases and to loot bank accounts.

The scammer posts help-wanted advertisements at Internet job search sites or tells a victim found in an Internet chat room about a job opportunity. The victim is hired to reship merchandise bought in his/her country to a company address overseas. The victim supplies personal data in the company's application form and this data can be used to obtain credit in his/her name.
   Parcels arrive and the victim reships them, not knowing that the goods were bought via credit card fraud. When the scam eventually unravels, the victim is left dangling, a dead end in a police investigation.
   Alternatively, the scammer may ask the victim to reship goods (at the scammer's expense) as a favour, explaining that international legal complications make it impossible for the scammer to receive business shipments from the victim's country.

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Created for Jenson Farrago by HTSP Web Division, 10/12 SK6 4EG, Romiley, GB. 2008