Clever new Nigerian scams and a scary, personal story about family identity theft: Internet ScamBusters #309
Nigerian scams are always in the headlines but by now you'd think we've seen all the tricks these crooks have up their sleeves. Not so. This week, we want to let you know about 3 new twists on well known Nigerian scams.
We also share a personal family scare related to identity theft, and our experience with how identity theft prevention company LifeLock performed in this situation.
Now, here we go...
3 New Nigerian Scams Uncovered
Here are three new clever twists to the Nigerian scam...
Nigerian twist #1: Trust me -- send no money
The scam: In London, England, a would-be renter is fooled into believing she's dealing with a legitimate apartment owner when he tells her there's no need to send an advance payment to him.
The cunning crook spins a story about having trouble with previous renters and wanting proof of her ability to pay. But he suggests she should send some money -- about $2500 -- as an electronic payment to a friend or relative of her choice.
That way, he says, it will prove she has the money but it will remain safe. Here's the catch: as proof of payment, he asks for a scanned copy of the transfer payment. A while later, posing as the friend or relative, he uses this copy to collect the money from a Western Union office.
The solution: It's not clear if Western Union was fooled into thinking the document was an original or if they will pay out on presentation of a copy. All they would say is that they are investigating the scam.
Meanwhile, the message is clear: not only should you not send electronic payments to someone you don't know and trust but also don't send them a copy either.
Nigerian twist #2: Send me the stuff -- I'll use PayPal
The scam: Wise to the use of forged checks and stolen credit cards to pay for items they're selling, many vendors using services like eBay and Craigslist now insist they'll only accept payments via PayPal, especially to buyers who ask for shipment overseas -- usually to Africa.
Fine. But what happens when you get an email apparently from PayPal saying your account has now been credited with the money you're awaiting?
Well, if you don't independently check your account, you may have just received a fake message that's not from PayPal at all.
It's easy to do if the buyer gets your email address and it's just as easy for scammers to design a message that looks like the real thing. And that's what they're now doing in a big way.
The solution: Simple. As suggested above, check your PayPal account to make sure the money really is there.
We covered other types of PayPal-related scams on our site.
Nigerian twist #3: It's OK -- we're the FBI, um, the President
The scam: A resident of North Kenai, Alaska, sniffs out a scam when she receives a $30,000 check, supposedly from the Central Bank of Nigeria, and is told to take 10% and forward the rest. She doesn't.
Later she gets what seems to be an email from the FBI. It says they've been monitoring her email and investigating the bank and "confirmed your contract payment is 100% genuine and hitch free."
She still doesn't bite, so a couple of days later the scammers send another message, this time from the "United Nations 2007 Compensations Payments Directive" saying the Nigerian government is concerned about its image and the President wants to pay the woman $300,000 compensation to redeem its good name!
Now, of course, they just want her bank details so they can forward the money. She doesn't fall for that either.
The solution: Talk about persistence! As usual, the warnings here are that you don't get money for nothing, never wire cash to someone you don't know, and don't give your bank details to someone you don't know -- even someone who says he's the President of Nigeria!
For more information about Nigerian-type scams, check out these Scambusters articles related to the Nigerian fee scam.
A Personal Family Identity Theft Scare
We recently got a call from our mother, who said she got a letter from the Social Security Administration about her request to direct deposit her Social Security check.
Since she had not requested direct deposit from the Social Security Administration, she was very concerned.
In the same day's mail was a letter about a new credit card application she had supposedly applied for.
Again, she hadn't applied for a new credit card.
She asked us if we thought this was identity theft. Unfortunately, it sounded VERY much like identity theft to us.
Since we'd enrolled her with LifeLock's identity theft protection service, we had her call the LifeLock 800 number and talk to one of their customer service specialists.
He also said this sounded like a case of identity theft and immediately swung into action. He was very helpful, and worked with her to quickly determine if there was a breach.
As it turned out, our mother had recently opened a new bank account. We found out that the new bank had requested the direct deposit of her Social Security check into her account, and had applied for a credit card for her -- both without her knowledge. (That was obviously VERY disconcerting.)
However more importantly, it turned out that her identity had NOT been stolen -- which was an enormous relief.
We were all very satisfied with how well LifeLock handled the situation. Fortunately it was a false alarm, but it was very reassuring to discover they were there when we thought we needed them.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!