Tricksters sharpen up their Nigerian scams to try to fool even the savviest target victims: Internet Scambusters #340
Seems like new or variations of existing Nigerian scams appear every week, but now the fraudsters use techniques that are a whole lot more convincing.
And if that doesn't work, these Nigerian scammers will threaten you in an effort to scare you into taking action.
In this issue, we identity three new tricks to be on the lookout for, together with a list of other common Nigerian scams.
And now for the main feature...
8 Cunning New Nigerian Scams Aim to Convince You They're Real
Nigerian scam artists have wised up to the fact that many of us no longer get taken in by the Nigerian email scam from phony government or bank officials offering to split multi-million dollar fortunes or inheritances, or Nigerian scams involving forged overpayment checks that require us to send untraceable money-wires back to them.
So, they've developed new ways to try to convince us that their money-grubbing cons are really genuine.
New variations of the so-called Nigerian 419 scam (named for the section of the Nigerian constitution that deals with this crime) appear almost weekly.
Some of them are pretty clever. But with the right degree of healthy skepticism, you can still see through them.
We've got the low-down on three new tricks (or variations of existing Nigerian scams) to help you spot them.
- After bogus checks, prepare for forged cash.Those checks that came with letters telling us we'd won a lottery or had been selected to become mystery shoppers are so yesterday.Today's Nigerian scammers try to convince us with the "real" thing -- $100 bills.
In a new trick, seen for the first time in Kansas in April this year, a scammer sent $3,000 worth of forged bills to a man and asked him to use it to buy a Moneygram.
The victim had been corresponding by email supposedly with a woman in Nigeria. He received the "cash" from a person claiming to be the woman's uncle, who asked him to send the Moneygram to her so she could come to the US.
He fell for it, but the forgery was spotted at the Moneygram office.
A few days later, a Nevada man tried the same thing, after receiving $3,000 of forged notes. He was told he could keep $500 and tried to buy a $2,500 Moneygram with the remainder.
Action: Watch out for more of these tricks in the coming months. Bluntly, never send Moneygrams on behalf of someone you don't know, whether you receive cash or a check.
- Piling on the PayPal pressure.We wrote previously about the use of forged PayPal emails used in Nigerian scams, supposedly confirming that your account has been credited following a sale you made on eBay.Now it seems that the Nigerian scam crooks have developed a whole suite of "PayPal" messages they send out in swift succession, aimed at forcing you to send the item.
Relying on people's trust that PayPal is a safe way to do business (which it is, if you use it correctly), the scammers bid for an expensive item you're selling, then spoof a message to you from the online payment service saying the payment has been received.
Our advice, when this first happened, was to sign on to your PayPal account and check for yourself that the money was in your account.
To get around this, the scammers now send out a message, again claiming to be from PayPal but saying the money will not be credited to your account until you send confirmation, with a tracking number, that the items have been shipped.
If you reply to either of these emails questioning the arrangement, the scammer sends another "PayPal" message threatening to close your account unless you complete the sale.
Action: PayPal doesn't hold money pending a shipment nor does it threaten account closure in this way. As we previously advised, check your PayPal account. If the money isn't there, don't send your sale item.
(Another giveaway, by the way, is that the bogus messages usually have misspellings and poor grammar -- Nigerian scam artists haven't wised up to that yet!)
- Here's "proof" of my story.As we mentioned at the start, one of the most common, longest-standing Nigerian scams is the invitation to share in some ill-gotten gains.To get your hands, supposedly, on the dough, you have to either supply personal bank account details (for ID theft) or make a money-wire or credit card payment to get the money released (which, of course, it never is because it doesn't exist).
To deal with the inevitable skepticism, the scammers often supply a link to a true story, usually about someone (the benefactor) being killed in a road accident.
A variation is the Nigerian scam email message, supposedly from a US soldier who got his or her hands on a slice of Saddam Hussein's fortune.
Now scammers have knitted together a clever variation of these ruses by pointing to a story about money in Iraq that really has gone missing.
Usually purporting to come from "Sgt. Martin Hems," this letter points to a BBC story about hidden money in Iraq and the fact that five soldiers were questioned after some of the cache of cash went missing.
Action: Don't put 2 + 2 together and make 5. Just because there's a true story doesn't mean that a claim to be linked to it is true. The money may be missing, but it still isn't coming your way!
Bottom line -- just don't believe any story that you're in for a cut of someone else's fortune. It's 99.999% unlikely -- and you can get a lawyer to check out the remaining 0.001%.
More Nigerian Scams
Every week, scores of reports about Nigerian scams cross our desk.
Other current tricks that are doing the rounds include:
- Hacking into Facebook accounts, then sending messages to all the listed friends claiming the account owner is in trouble and asking for cash to be wired for their rescue.
- Collecting names and email addresses of people who leave messages on obituary site guestbooks and contacting them with a request for money, supposedly on behalf of the bereaved person.
- Sending complimentary messages to bloggers and article authors (both online and in print) as a way of establishing a friendship that, sooner or later, results in a cash-call attached to a tale of woe.
- Offering to buy your Internet domain name, then asking you to visit a site (their site) where you have to pay to have it valued.
- Using Microsoft Word documents as attachments. These contain details of the scam story but, because they are not in the main body of the email, they often don't get picked up by phishing and scam detectors in your security software.
The one thing you can be sure of with Nigerian scams is that they may not be worded well, but they are big-time sneaky in the way they try to fool us.
And you can be sure Nigerian scammers will find even more new tricks to test our gullibility. Count on us to help you stay one step ahead!
That's all we have for today, but we'll be back next week with another issue. See you then!