Beware Good News Emails
Switching the computer on in the morning can bring wonderful news. Oh goody! An email saying I’ve won $1 million in the British Columbia lottery without me even buying a ticket.
Hang on, someone else wants to send me a $5 million inheritance from an aunt in Romania I never knew I had. Oh, and here’s someone whispering they have to get $10 million out of Nigeria and want to hide the money in my bank account.
All these folk need are my bank details and a small transaction fee and the riches will be on their way. The small transaction fee didn’t arrive? Oh sorry, there was a hitch. Just send a few hundred dollars more and the money will definitely be on its way.
The scammers are also on the phone, calling people at home saying somebody in the house has won an insurance claim or some other undeserved windfall.
Ah yes, we laugh. How could anyone fall for such an obvious con? But many people do fall victim to these scams. The conmen wouldn’t keep doing it if it didn’t make money. They are skillful and persuasive, and send millions of emails around the world to net their victims.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says Internet scams grew 65 per cent last year. Australians lost $93 million to the scammers in 2012, and that is just from the 84,000 people who contacted the ACCC to tell them of their experience. Many more are too embarrassed to say they were taken for a ride.
The ACCC has good advice on how to spot a scam through www.scamwatch.gov.au and it’s ‘Little Black Book of Scams’.
As most Internet and phone scams are based overseas there is little that can be done to recover lost money. The ACCC concentrates on warning people about the scams, but it’s nigh impossible to bring the elusive conmen to justice.
The ACCC did help British police get evidence from an Australian retiree who lost $800,000 to a sophisticated scam. A British court sentenced a man and a woman to four and a half years and 12 months gaol respectively, but the retiree got back just $78,000.
As the saying goes; if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Besides, most scams rely on people’s greed and willingness to grab money they aren’t entitled to. The best advice when emails come bearing surprise gifts – hit the delete button, fast.