How to Spot a Scam

No matter how hard these criminals try to appear authentic, the signs of their true identities are usually right on the surface of their first message and the discerning can easily see the red flags. Scams usually have all or some of the following features:

Unsolicited: These fraudulent business deals are most of the time unsolicited. You never played any lottery or applied for loans or money from the company or institution that offers you the money. They are sent to you by complete strangers who appear to know you. The reality is that the same solicitation was probably sent to thousands of other people.

Sense of Urgency: Victims are usually expected to act quickly on the notice. Ridiculously short periods of time are allowed for the victim to act or lose the money or benefits.

Underlining Threat: The expected money will be moved to an inaccessible account, or the account will be frozen or your own account will be closed, or your credit card will be deactivated, or you will be charged a fee if you fail to comply; which ever threat is used, the real purpose is to get you alarmed and make you co-operate quickly.

Confidentiality: The transaction presented before you usually requires that you keep all your communication with these fraudsters confidential. You are asked not to discuss the transaction with anyone at all. Sometimes, you are asked not to contact the financial institution concerned directly. All third parties brought into the transaction are usually recommended by the fraudsters and more often than not, they are part of the scheme.

Advanced Payment: You are expected to pay a “small” amount of money as courier fees, transfer fees, bribes, taxes, bank charges, legal fees or professional fees in order to facilitate the transfer of the huge sum of money to you.

Criminal Undertone: Often the schemes presented to you have criminal elements when you accept to be part of the transaction. When you are asked to step forward and lay claim to an inheritance of someone you do not know, and you comply, you are in essence committing fraud. When you are asked to help a corrupt government official siphon loot from a public treasury, you are helping to commit a crime. Often these fraudsters play on their victims’ greed to defraud them.

Embedded Links: In most spoofs, there are embedded links that look legitimate because they contain all or part of the name of a real company.

Spelling Errors: Spelling errors in fraudulent emails are usually obvious and many times, deliberate. The errors help the spoofs to avoid spam guards that ISPs use.

Bad Grammar and Punctuations: Usually these fictitious solicitations are written in bad English, all capitals letters, and with improper punctuations.

Use Free Internet Mail Services: Fraudsters usually use free email services like yahoo, hotmail, netscape, lycos, and others. Authentic company mails are usually sent from company websites and end with the company’s website for example

Vague Contact Details: Often, the addresses quoted by these fraudsters are fake, incomplete, vague or downright non-existent. Phone numbers supplied are usually mobile, personal or residential phone lines. Real companies use fixed lines and they usually have a series of numbers, not one or two. Also, company phone lines are usually linked to a switchboard and are not picked up directly by people when you call.