Consumers continue to fall for windfall schemes
October 27, 2015  //  By:   //  Consumer News  //  No Comment

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If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Yet hundreds if not thousands of Americans continue to fall prey to unscrupulous overseas scammers who send emails claiming the recipient has won millions of dollars and only needs to send a certain amount of money to receive the funds.

The spam mail can fill an inbox with everything from claims of lottery winnings to inheritances from second cousins thrice removed. Some of the emails may look legitimate while others are filled with poor grammar and misspelled words.

Despite the recipient having never purchased a lottery ticket or knowing of a long lost relative in Saudi Arabia, there are those who believe the messages and send their money off–by providing their credit card number and personal information.

The Internet is filled with complaints from those who fell for the scams and received nothing in return except a stolen identity and credit card fraud.

According to Securelist, in the first quarter of 2015, spam constituted as much as 59.2 percent of all email. Spam emails may contain malicious files, or malware, or may be phishing attacks. Phishing attacks are scams meant to lure folks to provide personal and financial information.

One of the most recent scams involves what appears to be an official letter from the FBI. It warns that the recipient is being watched for terrorist activity, but for $99.99 they can be removed from the list.

Other scams that have circulated include the IRS scam in which telephone calls are placed warning of past due taxes and the Medicare fraud scam warning that money must be paid back.

Scams aren’t limited to email and telephone. A Brooklyn woman was charged several months ago for scamming her friends out of $300,000 by telling them she had inherited a large amount of cash but needed money to pay off the estate’s taxes and liens.

Law enforcement also warn that online dating sites can lure unsuspecting victims into loaning or gifting money.  An imposter poses as a suitor, entices the victim into a romance and then finally, steals his or her finances.

The Federal Trade Commission recently announced a new scam that’s targeting video gamers. The scam tries to dupe players into believing the gaming companies are coming after them for such things as selling in-game characters or items used in the game for actual money, the FTC said. Fraudsters send emails to gamers claim the company is going to sue them for up to $2,700 for continued violations of using real money for in-game transactions, hoping to bait targets of the scam into sharing personal or financial information.

Older scams that have been around for a decade continue to exist, such as the Paypal phishing email asking to update personal information or claiming there’s a problem with the account.

Experts say the best way to avoid scams is to do the following:

  • If you get an email with links, don’t click on them
  • Verify questionable emails by contacting the company directly using information not contained in the message
  • Be sure your security software is in use and up to date
  • Don’t download attachments in emails from sources you don’t know

Those who do fall victim to such scams should contact their local authorities.

Image: Flickr/Khadija Dawn Carryl

About the Author :

Carol Thompson is a veteran investigative reporter residing in central New York. She spent 23 years with a local newspaper, The Valley News, before leaving for the Syracuse New Times, and now, VNN. Thompson has won dozens of first-place awards for investigative reporting and was the 2006 recipient of the Syracuse Press Club’s prestigious Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award. Thompson’s reporting has resulted in the arrest of public officials and has prompted policy changes. She uncovered two money laundering schemes that traveled the globe and resulted in the indictments of several developers.