Stanley: Scam artists can break your heart
By Brian Stanley Life of Brianemail@example.com December 22, 2012 8:28PM
Updated: January 24, 2013 6:24AM
Last week, I was exposed to the best and worst traits of humanity at the same time.
“Annie” works at a local currency exchange and has seen a substantial increase in scam activity over the past month. And she figured if more people are being duped into sending money overseas at her counter, it’s happening everywhere.
Though some operators go to the extra steps of mail fraud or telephone calls, it’s accurate to call most of these Internet scams.
Most people recognize as bogus emails offering money in exchange for helping a stranger claim a reward from a foreign country and delete them immediately. But spending 10 minutes to write a pitch and send it to millions of addresses is worth it if you get just one victim from all those tries.
“Robbing a bank will get you a couple hundred or thousand dollars and that’s all,” a detective once told me. “You can get shot, you might not get away. With scams, police will take a report, but they can’t afford to send anyone to another country or state to investigate. Even if someone gets caught, they haven’t committed a violent crime and will get a lighter sentence. Low risk, high reward.”
Recently, Annie’s seen a guarantee to take a timeshare off someone’s hands — provided you pay an upfront service fee; grandparents arranging to bail a traveler out of a foreign jail (the Canadian Grandson) and the Cameroon puppy scam.
“There’s a cute photo of a free puppy and all you have to do is send the cost of shipping. Of course, if you actually do that, a shots fee comes up, not that you’ll ever get a puppy,” Annie said. “There are plenty of real animals in this country to adopt.”
An elderly woman answered an email saying she’d won the lottery and the phone calls asking for more “claiming fees” kept coming.
“Her husband came in and reminded me of my own father,” Annie said. “It broke my heart to see he was giving the money he’d worked hard for away when he deserves to enjoy retirement.”
Many wire transfer companies have checks in place to watch for potential fraud, and in those cases Annie or other employees made “the marks” reconsider.
But another woman is convinced a man who has only communicated through email soon will be coming to the United States to continue their romance. When her money orders wouldn’t transfer to Nigeria, she returned a few days later to try and send the same amount to his associate in another state.
Meanwhile, the victim sending the $1,000 checks has a house in foreclosure, Annie said.
“I’m curious about the exchange rate and standard of living in Nigeria,” she said. “If you get $1,000 off someone are you rich?”
It angers Annie to see people ripped off, and she believed reminding them about these scams once again is worth it to “save one or two people from financial disaster.” We’re all potential victims, but mentioning it to seniors who use email, but not often, would be especially helpful, she said.
I’m glad there are people like Annie who can’t help looking out for others. People who care more about what’s right than moving you along in line with no concern.
So let’s leave her as a backup and try to reduce the chance of becoming a con victim on our own, OK?