TYPES OF SCAM
Because many free email services do not require valid identifying information, and also allow communication with many victims in a short span of time, they are the preferred method of communication for scammers. Some services go so far as to mask the sender’s source IP address (Gmail being a common choice), making the scammer more difficult to trace to country of origin. While Gmail does indeed strip headers from emails, it is in fact possible to trace an IP address from such an email. Scammers can create as many accounts as they wish and often have several at a time. In addition, if email providers are alerted to the scammer’s activities and suspend the account, it is a trivial matter for the scammer to simply create a new account to resume scamming.
Email hijacking/friend scams
Some fraudsters hijack existing email accounts and use them for advance-fee fraud purposes. The fraudsters email associates, friends, and/or family members of the legitimate account owner in an attempt to defraud them.Variety of techniques such as phishing, keyloggers, computer viruses are used to gain login information for the email address.
Facsimile machines are commonly used tools of business, whenever a client requires a hard copy of a document. They can also be simulated using web services, and made untraceable by the use of prepaid phones connected to mobile fax machines or by use of a public fax machine such as one owned by a document processing business like FedEx Office/Kinko’s. Thus, scammers posing as business entities often use fax transmissions as an anonymous form of communication. This is more expensive, as the prepaid phone and fax equipment cost more than email, but to a skeptical victim it can be more believable.
Abusing SMS bulk senders such as WASPS, scammers subscribe to these services using fraudulent registration details and paying either via cash or stolen credit card details. They then send out masses of unsolicited SMSes to victims stating they have won a competition/lottery/reward or like event and they have to contact somebody to claim their prize. Typically the details of the party to be contacted will be an equally untraceable email address or a virtual telephone number. These messages may be sent over a weekend when abuse staff at the service providers are not working, enabling the scammer to be able to abuse the services for a whole weekend. Even when traceable they give out long and winding procedure of procuring the reward (real/unreal) and that too with the impending huge cost of transportation and tax/duty charges.The origin of such SMS messages are often from fake websites/addresses.
A recent (mid 2011) innovation is the use of a Premium Rate ‘call back’ number (instead of a web site or email) in the SMS. On calling the number, the victim is first reassured that ‘they are a winner’ and then subjected to a long series of instructions on how to collect their ‘winnings’. During the message there will be frequent instructions to ‘ring back in the event of problems’. The call is always ‘cut off’ just before the victim has the chance to note all the details. Some victims call back multiple times in an effort to collect all the details. The scammer thus makes their money out of the fees charged for call.
Telecommunications relay services
Many scams use telephone calls to convince the victim that the person on the other end of the deal is a real, truthful person. The scammer, possibly impersonating a US citizen or other person of a nationality, or gender, other than their own, would arouse suspicion by telephoning the victim. In these cases, scammers use TRS, a US federally funded relay service where an operator or a text/speech translation program acts as an intermediary between someone using an ordinary telephone and a deaf caller using TDD or other teleprinter device. The scammer may claim they are deaf, and that they must use a relay service. The victim, possibly drawn in by sympathy for a disabled caller, might be more susceptible to the fraud.
FCC regulations and confidentiality laws require that operators relay calls verbatim, and that they adhere to a strict code of confidentiality and ethics. Thus, no relay operator may judge the legality and/or legitimacy of a relay call, and must relay it without interference. This means the relay operator may not warn victims, even when they suspect the call is a scam. MCI said that about one percent of their IP Relay calls in 2004 were scams.
Tracking phone-based relay services is relatively easy, so scammers tend to prefer Internet Protocol-based relay services such as IP Relay. In a common strategy, they bind their overseas IP address to a router or server located on US soil, allowing them to use US-based relay service providers without interference.
TRS is sometimes used to relay credit card information to make a fraudulent purchase with a stolen credit card. In many cases however, it is simply a means for the con artist to further lure the victim into the scam.
 Invitation to visit the country
Sometimes, victims are invited to a country to meet government officials, an associate of the scammer, or the scammer themselves. Some victims who do travel are instead held for ransom. Scammers may tell a victim that he or she does not need to get a visa or that the scammers will provide the visa.If the victim does this, the scammers have the power to extort money from the victim. Sometimes victims are ransomed or, as in the case of the 29 year old Greek George Makronalli who was lured to South Africa, killed.
There are many variations on the most common stories, and also many variations on the way the scam works. Some of the more commonly seen variants involve employment scams, lottery scams, online sales and rentals, and romance scams. Many scams involve online sales, such as those advertised on websites such as Craigslist and eBay, or even with rental properties. It is important to keep in mind that it is beyond the scope of this article to list every single type of known advanced fee fraud or Nigerian 419 schemes. Rather, this covers some of the major types. For more examples, please browse through some of the appropriate external links found at the end of this article.
A new scam targets people who have posted their resumes on job sites. The scammer sends a letter with a falsified company logo. The job offer usually indicates exceptional salary and benefits and requests that the victim needs a “work permit” for working in the country and includes the address of a (fake) “government official” to contact. The “government official” then proceeds to fleece the victim by extracting fees from the unsuspecting user for the work permit and other fees. A variant of the job scam recruits freelancers seeking legitimate gigs (such as in editing or translation), then offers “pre-payment” for their work.
Many legitimate (or at least fully registered) companies work on a similar basis, using this method as their primary source of earnings. Some modelling and escort agencies will tell applicants that they have a number of clients lined up, but that they require a “registration fee” of sorts to account for processing and marketing expenses, or so it is claimed, which is paid in a number of untraceable methods, most often by cash; once the fee is paid, the applicant is informed that the client has cancelled, and thereafter they never contact the applicant again.
The scammer contacts the victim to interest them in a “work-at-home” opportunity, or asks them to cash a check or money order that for some reason cannot be redeemed locally. A recently used cover story is that the perpetrator of the scam wishes the victim to work as a “mystery shopper”, evaluating the service provided by MoneyGram or Western Union locations within major retailers such as Wal-Mart.The scammer sends the victim a check or money order, the victim cashes it, sends the cash to the scammer via wire transfer, and the scammer disappears. Later the forgery is discovered and the bank transaction is reversed, leaving the victim liable for the balance. Schemes based solely on check cashing usually offer only a small part of the check’s total amount, with the assurance that many more checks will follow; if the victim buys in to the scam and cashes all the checks, the scammer can win big in a very short period of time.
The lottery scam involves fake notices of lottery wins. The winner is usually asked to send sensitive information such as name, residential address, occupation/position, lottery number etc. to a free email account which is at times untraceable or without any link. The scammer then notifies the victim that releasing the funds requires some small fee (insurance, registration, or shipping). Once the victim sends the fee, the scammer invents another fee.
Much like the various forms of overpayment fraud detailed above, a new variant of the lottery scam involves fake or stolen checks being sent to the ‘winner’ of the lottery (these checks representing a part payment of the winnings). The winner is more likely to assume the win is legitimate, and thus more likely to send the fee (which he does not realize is an advance fee). The check and associated funds are flagged by the bank when the fraud is discovered, and debited from the victim’s account.
In 2004 a variant of the lottery scam appeared in the United States. Fraud artists using the scheme call victims on telephones; a scammer tells a victim that a government has given them a grant and that they must pay an advance fee, usually around $250, to receive the grant.
Online sales and rentals
Many scams involve the purchase of goods and services via classified advertisements, especially on sites like Craigslist, eBay, or Gumtree. These typically involve the scammer contacting the seller of a particular good or service via telephone or email expressing interest in it. They will typically then send a fake check written for an amount greater than the asking price, asking the seller to send the difference to an alternate address, usually by money order or Western Union. A seller eager to sell a particular product may not wait for the check to clear, and when the bad check bounces, the funds wired have already been lost.
Other scammers may be listing items for sale on the Internet, usually high-priced consumer electronics, such as cameras or computers, but at “steal” of a price far below the retail value. When a victim places an order for the item, they’re contacted by a “salesperson” who explains that they’ll have to pay extra for batteries, memory cards, power cords, manuals, warranties, etc. If the victim refuses, and attempts to just order the item advertised, suddenly it becomes indefinitely out of stock. Sometimes, the scammer will ask for a (non-refundable) deposit to place the order, and the product never comes in.
Some scammers will advertise phony academic conferences in exotic or international locations, complete with fake websites, scheduled agendas and advertising experts in a particular field that will be presenting there. They will offer to pay the airfare of the participants, but not the hotel accommodations. They will extract money from the victims when they attempt to reserve their accommodations in a non-existent hotel.
Sometimes, an inexpensive rental property will be advertised by a fake landlord, who is typically out of state (or the country) and asking for the rent and/or deposit to be wired to them. Or the con artist finds a property, pretends to be the owner, lists it online, and communicates with the would-be renter and to take a cash deposit.The scammer may also be the renter as well. In such a case, a foreign student may contact a landlord seeking accommodation. They usually state that they are not yet in the country and wish to secure accommodations prior to arriving. Once the terms are negotiated, a forged check is forwarded for a greater amount than negotiated, and then ask the landlord to wire some of the money back.
This a variation of the online sales scam where high value, scarce pets are advertised as bait to defraud unsuspecting buyers. Online advertising websites using little real seller verification like Craigslist, Gumtree, JunkMail and like websites. The pet may either be advertised as being for-sale or up for adoption. Typically the pet will be advertised on online advertising pages complete with photographs taken from various sources such as real advertisements, blogs or where ever an image can be stolen. Upon the potential victim contacting the scammer, the scammer responds by asking details pertaining to the potential victim’s circumstances and location under the guise of ensuring the pet would have a suitable home. By determining the location of the victim, the scammer ensures he is far enough from the victim as to not allow the buyer to physically view the pet. Should the scammer be questioned as the advertisement claimed a location initially, the scammer will claim work circumstances having forced him to relocate. This forces a situation whereby all communication is either via email, telephone (normally untraceable numbers) and SMS. Upon the victim deciding to adopt or purchase the pet, a courier has to be used which is in reality part of the scam. If this is for an adopted pet, typically the victim is expected to pay some fee such as insurance, food or shipping. Payment is via MoneyGram, Western Union or money mules’ bank accounts where other victims have been duped into work from home scams.
Numerous problems are encountered in the courier phase of the scam. The crate is too small and the victim has the option of either purchasing a crate with air conditioning or renting one while also paying a deposit, typically called a caution or cautionary fee. The victim may also have to pay for insurance if such fees have been paid yet. If the victim pays these fees, the pet may become sick and a veterinarian’s assistance is sought for which the victim has repay the courier. Additionally a health certificate is needed to transport the pet, also for the victim’s account. The victim may also be charged for kennel fees during the recuperation period. The further the scam progresses, the more similarities with the typical 419 scams are seen in terms of fictitious fees. It is not uncommon to see customs or like fees being claimed if it falls into the scam plot.
Numerous scam websites may be used for this scam. This scam has been linked to the classical 419 scams in that the fictitious couriers used, are also used in other types of 419 scams such as lotto scams.
A recent variant is the Romance Scam, which is a money-for-romance angle. The con artist approaches the victim on an online dating service, an Instant messenger, or a social networking site. The scammer claims an interest in the victim, and posts pictures of an attractive person.The scammer uses this communication to gain confidence, then asks for money.The con artist may claim to be interested in meeting the victim, but needs cash to book a plane, hotel room, or other expenses. In other cases, they claim they’re trapped in a foreign country and need assistance to return, to escape imprisonment by corrupt local officials, to pay for medical expenses due to an illness contracted abroad, and so on. The scammer may also use the confidence gained by the romance angle to introduce some variant of the original Nigerian Letter scheme,such as saying they need to get money or valuables out of the country and offer to share the wealth, making the request for help in leaving the country even more attractive to the victim.
In a newer version of the scam, the con artist claims to have ‘information’ about the fidelity of a person’s significant other, which they will share for a fee. This information is garnered through social networking sites by using search parameters such as ‘In a relationship’ or ‘Married’. Anonymous emails are first sent to attempt to verify receipt, then a new web based email account is sent along with directions on how to retrieve the information.
A scam from Malaysia involves a woman alleging to be half American and half Asian with a father who is American but has died. After communication begins the target is immediately asked for money to pay for her sick mother’s hospital bills. Also, requests are made to help her get back to America. In every case these scammers never have a webcam so you can’t verify that they are the one truly in the picture they have sent, and offers to send a camera to them by postal mail (instead of money to buy it) are met with hostility.
Domestic scams often involve meeting someone on an online match making service. The scammer initiates contact with their target who is out of the area and requests money for bus fare. One “woman” scamming had money sent to a generic name like Joseph Hancock alleging she could not collect the money due to losing her international passport. After sending the money the victim is given bad news that they were robbed on the way to the bus stop by two men and the victim feels compelled to send more money. The person never visits their victim and is willing to chat with their victim through a chat client as long as their victim is still willing to send more money.
Other scams involve unclaimed property, also called “bona vacantia” in the United Kingdom. In England and Wales (other than the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall), this property is administered by the Bona Vacantia Division of the Treasury Solicitor’s Department. Fraudulent emails and letters claiming to be from this department have been reported which inform the recipient that they are the beneficiary of a legacy but requiring the payment of a fee before sending more information or releasing the money. In the United States, messages may appear to come from the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). Interestingly, this is a real organization of unclaimed property chiefs from around the nation, but it does not have control over any actual money – much less the authority to dole it out to people.
In one variant of 419 fraud, an alleged hitman writes to someone explaining that he has been targeted to kill them. He tells them that he knows the allegations against them are false, and asks for money so the target can receive evidence of the person who ordered the hit.
Another variant of advanced fee fraud is known as a pigeon drop. This is a confidence trick in which the mark, or “pigeon”, is persuaded to give up a sum of money in order to secure the rights to a larger sum of money, or more valuable object. In reality, the scammers make off with the money and the mark is left with nothing. In the process, the stranger (actually a confidence trickster) puts his money with the mark’s money (in an envelope, briefcase, or sack) which the mark is then entrusted with. The money is actually not put into the sack or envelope, but is switched for a bag full of newspaper or other worthless material. Through various theatrics, the mark is given the opportunity to make off with money without the stranger realising. In actuality, the mark would be fleeing from his own money, which the con man still has (or has handed off to an accomplice).
Some scammers will go after the victims of previous scams; known as a reloading scam. For example they may contact a victim saying that they can track and apprehend the scammer and recover the money lost by the victim, for a price. Or they may say that a fund has been set up by the Nigerian government to compensate victims of 419 fraud, and all that is required is proof of the loss, persona information, and a processing and handling fee. The recovery scammers obtain lists of victims by buying them from the original scammers.
TYPES OF SCAM