Arrest greedy victims of Nigerian scams says diplomat, but locals suffer too
Three unusual angles on the world of Nigerian scams emerge in this week's roundup of the latest fraud and hoax news. There's the Nigerian diplomat who wants scam victims arrested alongside the crooks. And then we have news of two cons inside Nigeria itself -- something you rarely hear about.
Our scan of the scam headlines also turns up two cases of well-known names used to con people out of money, a new rash of concert ticket scams and a warning about phony investment deals in the UK.
Plus, just to balance things up a bit, we thought it'd be worthwhile making the point that scammers -- or alleged scammers -- don't always get away with it. We take a quick look at some of the latest arrests and convictions.
1. Nigeria #1: Jail victims as well as scammers, says diplomat
The news: A Nigerian diplomat in Australia inflames the rage we all feel about scams originating from his home country by suggesting that victims as well as the perpetrators should be arrested.
Responding to news that Australians lose A$36m a year to the 419 Nigerian fee scams, Nigeria's High Commissioner says victims have failed to heed repeated warnings and fall for the scams because they're greedy.
While his Government "frowns seriously" on the crimes, Australians who fall for the con -- usually a request to help smuggle money out of the country for a fee payable in advance -- are like gambling addicts and are as guilty as the con merchants, he says.
Not surprisingly, most of the responses to his comments worldwide have ranged from negative to rage.
2. Nigeria #2: Students offered bogus college places
The scam: About 15 students in Nigeria receive letters offering them a place at a university in Liverpool, England.
They must pay an acceptance fee upfront but when they subsequently contact the college they discover their names are unknown there.
The solution: The letterhead looked genuine but the English usage wasn't of a standard you'd expect from a college. Whichever country you're in, use the proper university systems to apply for and/or accept a place.
Double check the offer before parting with money. In Nigeria, check with the authorized university-appointed agency, Global Education Study Centres.
3. Nigeria #3: Internet aids mischief-makers
The scam: Using a legitimate Internet service, scammers send cell phone text messages from a fake originating number.
They are used to send spam SMS messages or, at least in one case reported by Nigeria's Sunday Sun newspaper, to cause domestic upset by sending a compromising message to a married woman supposedly from another woman's husband!
The solution: One of the Internet's least endearing features is its ability to mask the identity of any individual -- an aspect exploited worldwide for phone spoofing, including caller ID. Don't trust these identifiers -- and don't jump to conclusions you may later regret!
More on fake caller ID here.
4. Mac spyware hijacks clipboards
The scam: After commenting last week about the rarity of scams on Apple Mac users, comes news of spyware that hijacks their clipboards. It's picked up during visits to legitimate websites, then blocks any further attempts to copy and paste, though, in some instances, it's been reported to paste a link to a malicious website in other emails.
The solution: This spyware also attacks Windows PCs. However, it's a sign of the growing popularity of the Mac that it's also been programmed to attack the Apple machines. Fortunately, rebooting will get rid of it. If you have trouble copying and pasting, just restart your computer.
5. Madonna fans stranded without tickets
The scams: Madonna fans and other concert-goers are left out in the cold after ordering tickets online that don't arrive.
Followers of the Material Girl in Britain who order from a new, low-price ticket site, later discover the site no longer exists and they don't have their tickets. Buyers of tickets for other pop events, including the Reading Festival, suffer the same fate.
The solution: The low, low prices -- well below official ticket fees -- were the giveaway. Buy your tickets direct from concert promoters or via established, reputable ticket agencies.
We wrote about another type of cheap ticket scam here.
6. Agency warns of "share recovery" firms
The scam: Staying in Britain, that country's Financial Services Agency (FSA) issues a warning about "recovery firm" scams. In this trick, customers of a stockbroking firm that has gone bust receive a call offering to buy their stock at an attractive price or to put them in touch with a buyer.
In both cases, the callers claim to work for firms specializing in recovering invested cash that make their money through an upfront fee. Once the fee is paid, that's the last the victims ever hear of them.
In an unrelated case, investors in a British investment trust receive calls from another firm offering to buy their stock for 25 times current value as part of a hostile bid for the company.
If they want to take up the offer, victims must provide their personal financial details. In other words, it's an identity theft scam.
The solution: The FSA has published a list of known unauthorized firms.
If in doubt about an offer you've received, contact the FSA. If you deal with unauthorized firms, whether they actually do buy your shares or not, you forfeit your right to compensation.
Know more about investment-related risks by reading this Scambusters article.
7. Famous name scam #1: Kenny Anderson look-alike lock-out
The scam: In the Long Beach area of New York, a con artist claims to be former basketball star Kenny Anderson. He tells his victims (there are quite a few, apparently) he's locked out of his car.
He asks for a ride to the locksmith's, then requests $300 to pay the key man, promising repayment and a substantial reward of $5,000 next day. He even tries to con the locksmith into giving him money for a cab ride back to his car.
The solution: How many people have you seen who look like someone else? Enough said. Never take anyone's word that they are who they say there, without proof. And certainly never give them money.
8. Famous name scam #2: Mandela Foundation prize hoax
The scam: It's a variation of the well-aired lottery scam, but South Africans get taken in when they're supposedly contacted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation with news of a big foundation award. To collect, though, victims learn they must pay an "administrative fee" of about $1,000.
The solution: Well, first, the Foundation doesn't make awards this way. And second, never pay an advance fee to receive a prize or an award. This trick was easily exposed by a call to the Foundation.
9. Sometimes, they do get caught!
Every week, Scamlines reports on cons and hoaxes that bilk money out of their victims. Often, the criminals get away with it, but sometimes they get caught, even if it's years later. And the penalties they face can be severe.
Among examples from this week's headlines:
- A Monroe County, PA, man faces a jail sentence after admitting selling fake rookie trading cards on eBay. He made $10,000 but theoretically could go to jail for 20 years. We'll see, though...
- In Miramichi, New Brunswick, police end a two-year hunt with the arrest of a long-time conman whose alleged crimes range from police impersonation to using false IDs to get a loan. The guy has a degree in Business Administration, but seemingly prefers theft to work.
- In Arizona, a grand jury indicts two men on fraud and conspiracy charges after they are said to have offered supposedly ready-made trading websites, complete with inventory, to would-be entrepreneurs. Victims never sold a thing or earned a cent.
- Nebraska authorities file charges against two men who allegedly sold ethanol-blend gasoline at higher, unleaded prices.
- Up to 47 years in jail and a $1 million fine could await a con artist who stole the identity of a missing South Carolina woman so she could attend Columbia University. She had plastic surgery and completed two years of college before being exposed.
Nothing is what it seems in the world of scamming. Well, almost. One thing that's crystal clear is that law enforcement stays on the trail of scammers, sometimes for as long as it takes. And they're often wise to even the sneakiest of tricks.