A scam is a scheme or illegal trick employed in getting victims to reveal personal or secret information, part with money or other valuables. A scam can also lead to the victim giving out a benefit to the perpetrator.
Scams come in various forms, depending on the perpetrator or the benefit the perpetrator seeks.
Scamming is one of the most common ways people lose money, and it has become so prevalent that it is important to know when you are about to be scammed or have been successfully scammed and what to do when you fall victim.
TYPES OF SCAMS
ADVANCE FREE FRAUD: The scammer contacts the victim out of the blue with an elaborate story about how their money is trapped in a certain country or how there is a threat to their life due to the money they own, thus the need to urgently transfer it out of their country of residence. They seek to feed on the victims’ sympathy and emotions, and thus request for some money to enable the transfer to your account which they have already requested for. Once the money is received by the scammers, they disappear. This scheme is so rampart and has been tagged as the Nigerian 419, as its perpetration is contrary to Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act.
LOTTERY, GAMBLE AND OTHER COMPETITIONS: The perpetrator contacts the victim and informs him/her as having won a competition they didn’t enter and request a sum of money or personal information to make a claim of the winnings.
DATING AND ROMANCE: As the title suggests, this is perpetrated majorly through dating sites. The perpetrator builds a romantic relationship with the victim, often with a promise of marriage. Using this relationship, the perpetrator seeks money and other valuables from the victim.
ONLINE SHOPPING AND AUCTION SALES: this comes up in various ways including- (i) the scammers create fake online stores (ii) advertise in legitimate stores or retail sites to collect money from unsuspecting for products which are never delivered or don’t even exist, e.g. COVID-19 vaccine (iii) it also involves the redirecting of buyers from the original website of the seller to a clone, which is very similar in appearance and even the name of the site. (iv) overpayment scam by a supposed online buyer and a request for a return of the overpaid sum (v) false billing by a fake supplier or vendor, who impersonates a real one used by the victim.
BANK/ PENSION FRAUD: this is one of the most common scams perpetrated in Nigeria and it includes (i) the receiving of fake credit alerts for items sold. (ii) automated teller machine/ credit card scam and this can be by stealing the numbers on the card by installing a camera on the machines or skimming and creating clones of the card.
JOB/ EMPLOYMENT FRAUD: the scammers put up fake job adverts and request applicants reveal some personal information to apply or make payment to be invited for an interview or pay to be be offered a job, all of which is nonexistent.
PHISHING: This is the scammer finding ways of getting personal information of the victim through different means. Including stealing.
COMPUTER SOFTWARE FRAUD: this is similar to ransomeware (number 13 below). The tries convincing the victim that there’s a computer or internet problem which needs fixing through the purchase and installation of a software to the victim, which upon installation gives remote access to the victims’ computer/ mobile device or it doesn’t work for the purpose it was bought.
PONZI SCHEMES AND CLASSIC PYRAMID: what comes to mind is MMM and you are correct! Schemes like this are sold to the victims as a public empowerment scheme, i.e. the money paid in is shared.
AUTHORIZED PAY: here the victim intends making payment while the perpetrator replaces the account details of person to receiver, thus diverting the payment without the knowledge of the payer/ victim. A typical scenario is the payer receiving a mail requesting for a change in the receiver’s bank details and premised on this information, makes the payment, only to find it was sent from the wrong email. It is therefore necessary to confirm mails and messages requesting payment into a particular account before making the payment.
RANSOMEWARE: This is a malicious software (malware) that enables criminals have access to your computer or mobile device. It enables the criminal lock or encrypt the files on it and extort money from you to unlock or unencrypt it. Sometimes the extortion is accompanied with a threat to reveal personal or secret information on the computer to the public. The malware can be activated by opening corrupted emails, attachments, opening links etc.
SOCIAL MEDIA SCAM: These are scams perpetrated using social media. The scammer phishes for personal information by engaging in a conversation, getting the victim to become friends on social media. It can also be: (i) putting up of fake celebrity news and asking unsuspecting victims to click on the link for more information (ii) Celebrity impersonation: the perpetuator created a social media page similar in name and appearance with a popular celebrity (actors, musicians, comedians, athletes etc.) and request for money and other benefits from victims, who believe they are real. They sometimes make promises of a particular gain e. getting featured in a new film or musical video as payment for the benefit requested for. (iii) Purchase of social media likes, followers or pages with a large following. The world daily becomes more and more of a global village, thanks to social media.
People can now reach others in countries and even continents far away from theirs through the use of social media, market products and even have a whole shop on social media. This has also led to the desire to have a huge following, to gain popularity. Various scammers advertise pages with huge following and engagement to the public for purchase and after purchase, it is discovered to be fake, i.e. the followers are simple burner accounts and begin the process of unfollowing after the purchase.
TRAVEL SCAM: this involves scams with relation to vacationing in a strange country or for first time travelers and can be in various forms. The scammers also feed on the time of the year choose the area of desperation of travelers to exploit, i.e. if the price of air ticket is high, they pretend to sell their ticket at a discounted rate, with the story that due to circumstances beyond their control, they can travel anymore. It can also be in the form of putting up vacation rental property for advert, receiving payment and coordinates (address) from the victims and upon getting to the address, the property is either nonexistent or different from what was advertised. Some also come in the form of travel agencies advertising for vacation packages at a discounted price, often referred to as sale or promo. They promise to obtain visa, air ticket, accommodation and touring activities for a fee. After making payment into the designated account, they disappear.
CRYPTOCURRENCY SCAM: with the rise of in the use and acceptability of various cryptocurrency e.g. Bitcoin, so also is the rise in the number of criminals intending to benefit from its popularity. Cryptocurrency scams can range from: (i) undertaking the aggressive promotion of a relatively unknown currency for purchase at a low price with high turnover. The mass investment causes a huge spike in the price, thus having the first round of investors cashing out in huge amounts and the second wave of investors are left with a worthless coin. (ii) Fake coin exchange- this is similar to trading in the forex market, but in this case, the victims pay to purchase a variance of legitimate coins or exchange for different types of coins, only to pay money or legitimate coins into the perpetuators account and not get the equivalent coins or getting a nonexistent coin.
Some other ways of scamming includes:
Impersonation/ identity theft: This can include impersonating government officials/ agencies, your bank, pension fund manager etc., to get personal information etc., under the pretense of trying to help with a government payment or affair like tax. It can also involve the perpetrator gathering information about a particular person through social media and other second hand means, to scam the unsuspecting public.
Investment Scam: this is similar to the Ponzi scheme/ classic pyramid scam discussed above. There’s the promise of quick and extremely high reward/ profit on investments made.
RECOGNISING A SCAM
Most victims are contacted out of the blue, with their emotions fed on by the perpetrator. Knowing when and how to recognize a scam, to protect yourself from falling victim is of great importance.
EMAIL ADDRESS/ WEBSITE: Be vigilant when responding to emails. Where an email is suspected to be fraudulent, expand the pane at the top of the message and see who exactly sent it. If it is a random number, the address will be filled with random numbers. Also, where there is a case of impersonation, the name of the supposed original sender will often be misspelled or some letters omitted.
While checking the sender address can help pinpoint fraud in some instances, it is important to note that sender origin can easily be forged, through a process called email spoofing, thereby making scam emails virtually indistinguishable from legitimate emails. Email spoofing is a technique sometimes used by fraudsters to alter origin email address and con victims into handing over vital information or funds. Through email spoofing, the sender email can be changed to any email of choice (i.e email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org).
UNSOLICITED: Scams are usually unsolicited and mass marketed to millions of people around the world at the same time.
If it sounds too unrealistic or beats all legal schemes available in terms of profit, exposure etc.
If it has the connotation of a criminal offence.
Where personal information or details are requested. It can also include information company information.
Random competitions, lotteries or winnings you didn’t apply for.
If quick decisions are required to be taken, with the opportunity to seek professional advice.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FALL VICTIM OF FRAUD
Stop payment immediately/ money transfer or information. Where it is possible to recall the information or money, do so immediately.
Change passwords, PIN etc. immediately.
For bank/ credit card or automated teller machine (ATM) card scam, call the bank’s customer care to block the account.
Reach the receiving pension, investment, bank, if possible to block the recipient’s account from cashing out the money.
Beware of recovery scams, i.e. scammers who state that they have ways of helping you recover the lost funds or information.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, REPORT TO THE NEAREST POLICE STATION the details of the scam and any information which may be of benefit in catching the perpetrator of the crime.
In conclusion, there are a thousand of ways scammers reach their victims and perpetrate the crime, but they all unfortunately cannot be covered. This is also considering the changing world economy and technology. It is, however, necessary to be at alert always, know the possible signs, how to avoid becoming a victim and what to do if you fall a victim.