Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Scam Is a Scam Is a Scam

by Joyce Tremel

I’m sure by now everyone has gotten one of the infamous Nigerian e-mails at least once. One of the many versions begins with “Request for urgent business relationship.” It goes on to say that they are government officials with money in the Central Bank of Nigeria. There is 21 million dollars that they can’t acquire and need your help to do it. All you have to do is send them your bank account information and part of the money is yours. Unfortunately, once you do that, there will be delay upon delay-the money is held up, they need another $5000 to bribe an official, etc. Before you know it, you’re bouncing checks all over the place. Your account has been cleaned out.

Another scam involves a man who wants to give his fortune to a church. All the church has to do is send him enough money for him to be able to send his millions to them. Another one is the scam where the victim is told he won a foreign lottery (that he never entered). He has to send a processing fee of a mere few thousand dollars first. One of the newer scams is the e-mail from a hitman. Yes, you read that right. Someone has hired a hitman to take you out. All you have to do is send him money and he’ll forget all about it.

I find it hard to believe that anyone actually falls for this stuff, but they do. We had an elderly couple come in to the police station not too long ago who were out about $10,000. We had someone come in with a hitman letter too. He was smart enough to know it was fraud.

In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the other day, I read about the newest scam: The Nigerian Puppy Scam. In this one, someone sees an ad for a free or inexpensive puppy. They call the number and find out that the puppy is a rare breed that would normally sell for thousands of dollars, but they can have it for a mere pittance. They send the money. The seller says there are problems and they need more money for shipping or insurance. In one instance the seller stated the plane carrying the puppy had crashed and they needed money for the vet bills. Warnings have been sent out by the American Kennel Club and the Better Business Bureau for consumers to be aware of these scams.

How many of you have heard of these scams? Do you know anyone who actually fell for one of them? Are there any scams you want to tell us about?


Anonymous said...

The hitman e-mail scam is downright creepy! I'm glad I haven't come across that one yet. Geez. What's next?

Anonymous said...

I've gotten a lot of these. The scammers seem to use member lists from organizations -- for awhile my name was reversed on the International Association for the Study of Dreams member page, appearing as "Sestak Gina." I received a lot of emails that began "Dear Mr. Gina" and went on to describe how another "Mr. Gina" had died and left me his millions. The PA Supreme Court Disciplinary Board posts an on-line list of licensed attorneys, which may be why I also get the ones seeking legal assistance (and money). They begin with praise for my legal abilities based upon information provided by unnamed sources -- but they also address me as "Mr." Apparently those sources aren't too observant.

I really like the warning ads that have been on tv in which a disreputable-looking person starts trying to run one of these scams live. The message is that no one would fall for this in person, so why fall for it over the internet? [Of course, some people probably would fall for it in person . . .]

Anonymous said...

That's funny, Gina, my thought is it would be more convincing in person than over the Internet. I'm of the, "I can't believe anyone would fall for this!" mindset.

Of course, it does depend on the person who approaches you, and how sleezy they appear . . .

Joyce Tremel said...

I think even in person, a lot of people would fall for it. Look at all the people who let the gypsies (yes, they are around here and very active) in their house. They'll come to someone's door with no ID and say they need to check their water meter/furnace, whatever. People just let them in. One goes to the basement with the person and the other cleans out the homeowner's jewelry boxes.

Then there are the phone calls. "We're from such and such a bank. We need your social security number to verify activity on your account."

The longer I work at the PD, the dumber people get. I don't know if there's a corrolation there...

Ramona said...

According to my email, I have won a whole lotta money at some lottery in England. I just have to go over there and pick up the check. Come to think of it, I'd like to go to England. Maybe I could make this scam work for me.

That puppy story cracked me up. I'm sorry, but if you fall for that plane crash bit, that's pretty sad.

Joyce, did you see a recent news story about some guy trying to pass off a fake 1 MILLION dollar bill at a Pittsburgh Giant Eagle supermarket? He got really ticked off at the clerk, too.

Joyce Tremel said...

Ramona, I did see that! That was so funny. I guess he should have done a little bit of research before he made that bill! And where did he think the clerk was going to get that much change?

Anonymous said...

Joyce, these are too unbelievable. All this information compiled would make a great joke book.

Unless you were scammed.