Anatomy of a Scam

Common types of scams:

Advance fee frauds

This type of scam is commonly known as a 419 scam or “Nigerian fraud” scam. While the scam itself takes on many forms, they essentially are all based on the same idea. They lure you in with a story and promise you huge sums of money, jewelery, gold, or other valuables. However in order to “receive” these promised goods the victim is asked to pay certain fees in advance. These “fees” are said to be used to pay for a lawyer, attorney, court documents, or a multitude of other reasons. If the victim does send money there will almost always be another reason why additional funding will be needed. Many victims doesn’t realize that the whole story was a lie to begin with until it’s too late.

Lottery scams

In a lottery scam, the scammer pretends to be from a legitimate lottery and will tell the victim they have won a huge sum of money. This fictitious lottery will require you to register for fees in order to claim your prize. Other fee requirements might be asked for in order to pay a lawyer or the courier service delivering the winnings. This obviously is completely untrue and it’s sole purpose is to take the victims money. Remember, when it comes to winning a lottery, you can only win a legitimate lottery if you’ve actually entered yourself into one.

Check or money order scams

This particular scam has many different variations. The most popular types of check scams are overpayment for goods, investor scams, and the company agent or representative scam. Never cash a check, money order or traveler’s check that asks you to send the proceeds when you have no idea who even sent it to you in the first place.

Here are the basics of the scam: The scammer asks the victim to receive payment (whether it be for goods sold or an investment) and to forward all or some of it. The mailed check or money order is obviously either fake, forged or stolen. The scammer hopes that the victim’s bank will not realize this initially and clear it. Once it clears the victim ends up sending some or all of the money directly to the scammer. When the bank catches wind of this they end up debiting the victim’s account. In these cases the bank will almost never be liable and the victim will additionally sometimes find their account closed soon after or will be arrested for money laundering.

Black money aka “wash-wash”

The scammer contacts a victim and claims to have a large supply of dollar bills which have been treated with a black dye to disguise that it is money. Once treated with certain chemicals however the money will be “cleaned” and will become actual usable currency. The victim is asked to pay for these chemicals but the fee will be less than the total value of the currency. This leads the victim to believe that they will be making a nice profit. Pictures may be shown to the victim to further entice them. The reality is that all of this so-called “money”  is just black paper.

Looking for Love scams

Here the scammer pretends to be looking for love. Usually lifting pictures directly off of the internet, they then proceed to engage a victim. People who use dating sites or chat rooms make easy targets and will often fall into the trap pretty quickly. Once the scammer finds that the victim is falling for all of their lies they will begin to ask for help with things such as living expenses, the cost of a visa, an ill relative that needs money for medicine, and a number of other reasons.

Charity scams

This type of scam is incredibly simple and sadly it plays on the good nature of people moved by unfortunate events such as natural disasters or the misfortunes of others. The scammer will either pretend to be an orphan in need of assistance, or a pastor looking for contributions to the work of his ministry. The remarkable thing about this scam is that they spawn almost immediately after a natural disaster takes place. Examples include 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquake in Haiti.

How do I recognize a scam?

This list includes some important warning signs to look for.

  • It appears too good to be true. A very little investment of time or money must be made in order to receive a huge profit.
  • The offer has come out of nowhere and the scammer does not even address you by name.
  • There is an insistence on urgency and on confidentiality.
  • People are introduced to the victim by the scammer, such as bank officials, security companies, diplomats or lawyers. These additional characters are all part of the ploy and are played by the scammer or his/her accomplices.
  • You’re supplied with a multitude of official-looking documents (which also happen to be forged.)
  • An early request is made for personal and detailed information such as an address, date of birth, bank account details, etc.
  • There are legitimate-sounding government agencies or financial organizations involved however the email addresses show do not relate to the organizations in any way. An example of this would be a scammer pretending to be a financial institution yet using a free email service such as GMail.
  • You are given mobile phone numbers rather than official company landlines.
  • The scammer will say that the fee needed will be the last and may even additionally claim to have paid some of it in order to build the victim’s confidence and trust.