Nigerian scam targets Apple's cell phone, plus 6 more new scams
It's a possession prized by many but, as this week's Scamlines report demonstrates, the coveted iPhone is also the target of scammers stretching from Singapore to Nigeria.
Plus, in this week's roundup of the scam headlines, we bring news of a return of the widespread hitman scam, a con in which fake winning lottery tickets are sold to victims, and a sneaky trick to make you pay for something you don't want.
And, for a sting in the tail, we report from Canada on how over-enthusiastic police officers condemned a fund-raising effort on their behalf as a scam -- when it wasn't!
1. Bogus hitman strikes again
The scam: The number of people receiving emails from a supposed hitman, threatening to kill them or a loved one unless he's paid off, surges in recent weeks, according to the Internet Crime Complaints Center.
The FBI reports outbreaks from Arizona to Pennsylvania, peaking in August. The emails threaten either to kill the recipient or to kidnap a loved one and hold them hostage. They tell victims to wire money to a destination to be given in a separate email five minutes before a supposed deadline expires.
Often the messages contain personal information about the victims, to make them sound more convincing. And, of course, they warn not to tell the police.
The solution: Tell the police! This one has been around since 2006.
Want to know more about the hitman scam? (It's VERY scary.) Check out this Scambusters article on the hitman scam for more details.
2. Couple cash in on fake lottery tickets
The scams: In separate incidents in Arlington County, VA, and Temple Terrace, FL, a couple trick victims into giving them cash for what they say is a winning lottery ticket. In both cases, the Spanish-speaking con artists tell their Hispanic victims that they're illegal immigrants and can't cash in the ticket themselves.
In one incident they offer to share the winnings but ask for cash in advance as a show of faith. In the other, the scammers tell victims the ticket is worth $250,000 and they can have it for $25,000. In reality, the tickets are worthless forgeries.
The solution: Sadly, police say this is an increasingly common scam, which victims often don't report because of embarrassment. As we always warn here, never part with money on the promise of a big return. It's almost never true.
3. Credit card charge disguised as refund deal
The scam: While shopping online, a window or pop-up appears offering you a $10 refund on "a subscription". You think it's linked to your purchase and you click a link that invites you to complete a survey.
You're hooked! You actually completed an application form subscribing you to an online rewards program. Your credit card will be charged a subscription fee each month -- minus that "generous" $10 refund.
The solution: This is NOT illegal. The answers and explanations are all there in the small-print, but the idea is to mislead you into paying for something you don't want. Beware of so-called online surveys and always read the small-print of any form you complete.
Apparently, victims number in the thousands. If the company is legitimate, it should be possible to visit their website and cancel membership but you've little chance of getting back what you already paid. Be sure to contact your credit card company and tell them to stop paying.
You can find a different angle on online surveys -- the sort you supposedly get paid for -- here.
4. Number's up for street address painters
The scam: Public notices appear in a Volusia, FL, subdivision, announcing that house numbers will be painted on the curb-sides outside their homes.
The notices imply the work is official but say it will be done by an independent contractor who will charge $20 once the work is done to residents' satisfaction.
The solution: There's nothing illegal about having your street number painted on the curb -- provided local regulations permit it -- but, in this case, the so-called public notice was fraudulent.
Plus, people can't just paint the number on your curb unless you agree beforehand. If anyone does this, report them to the police.
5. iPhone alert: Cheap deal turns into Nigerian con
The scam: Affluent Singaporeans can't wait to get their hands on the new iPhone -- so they're buying them from Hong Kong for an outrageous $1,600 per iPhone. One teen believes he's found a bargain though when he sees one of the devices advertised in an online forum for $350.
He sells his PlayStation and other stuff, and wires the money to Nigeria, only to receive successive requests for more cash. He ends up paying more than that $1,600 but still gets no phone.
The solution: Wiring money to Nigeria? Are you kidding? That's the first warning sign. The victim's parents knew nothing of the scam till they found the receipts and stopped the teen from sending even more money.
Quite obviously, this deal was too good to be true -- the second warning sign. Never wire cash to someone you don't 110% know and trust.
6. Trouble down at the Rose and Crown
The scam: An employee at the Rose and Crown pub in Oxfordshire, England, becomes suspicious when a phone caller asks if the pub will pay to advertise in a leaflet to support the local fire and rescue service.
The scammer claims many local businesses are supporting the project but, instead of paying up, the pub manager calls the fire service to check it out; they, of course, know nothing about it.
The solution: Be wary about giving money to support good causes -- whether as a straight charitable donation or as advertising support. Often they are genuine but if you're in any doubt and you want to donate, send your money directly to the good cause.
Read more about charity scams here.
7. Oops, that "phony" fundraising deal was real
The "scam": Yes, as the above story confirms, it pays to be cautious when people solicit charity donations, but sometimes what seems to be a scam turns out to be genuine -- as Winnipeg police find out.
They issue a warning that a fundraising campaign supposedly run by the Canadian Police Association is phony. But it isn't. The city police aren't directly involved in the campaign (though they may benefit from it) so no one tells them about it.
And when they start getting calls saying someone is soliciting donations on behalf of the "police service", they assume it's a scam -- especially after a real scam incident just a few weeks previously.
Red-faced, they later withdraw their alert. They should have checked with the CPA first. Ah well, no harm done. In the end, all the publicity probably helped rather than hindered the campaign!
That's it for this week. Remember that even though many of the scams we report on may have happened hundreds or even thousands of miles away from you, sooner or later they could turn up in your community. Be alert!