Protect yourself against scammers

I just received the best news via email!

“This is to re-notify you of the 500,000.00 was deposited here by the Heritage Lottery Board in the western union office in your name is available for pickup”  Woohoo! I’m rich……. They gave me their full name and this guy is the “Branch Coordinator” AND “Transaction Managing Director” – wow he must be important and there’s even a phone number so it is definitely legit…

This is not a real offer of course, I’ve never played the lottery that they are talking about and I know a rat when I smell one, but sometimes they aren’t so obvious.  Do you feel protected against scam artists and identity thieves?


Scam artists such as the ones who send these emails rely on catching people in vulnerable situations who are naïve to their scamming ways.  If you were down on your luck and didn’t know any better it would be easy to be sucked into the email and focus on the number of zero’s in your ‘winnings’ rather than looking for the ‘too good to be true’ part.  This is especially hard for people who enter regular competitions online – if you entered a lottery and then received this email it would be hard to admit it wasn’t true!

The obvious ones about Nigerian royalty leaving you hundreds of thousands in an unexpected inheritance are not as effective as they used to be for these con artists and hence why they are turning to other ways to snag your money, identity or both. 

I recently found myself questioning an email from the ATO claiming that they had re-evaluated a tax return from a previous year and now owed me $752 and all I had to do was reply with my bank account details.  The email was very well done and looked authentic with correct phone numbers and logo, the amount was also something you would expect from a tax return. 

A huge lottery win or inheritance will likely be questioned, whereas a smaller, more reasonable amount seems almost real.  And coming from a Government department can have you replying to the email quicker than you can say cha-ching!

If you receive an unexpected email from someone you don’t know, stating they want to pay you money but then followed by requests for your information then you need to approach with caution.  Do NOT reply to the email until you have done some research.


In all cases, RESEARCH!

Do a quick search on a piece of information taken from the email.  This could be a phone number, email address, company and any names provided.  Chances are other people have been taken for a ride and there will be some information about whether it is a scam or not.  There are website and forums dedicated to outing scams and warning others of these dangerous emails.

I did a search on the email I received today and it immediately came back with a lot of scam reports.  One website even gave some things to look for when identifying if this particular email was fake.  One thing that I wasn’t aware of but always wondered about is why do the senders always advise you to reply to an email that is different to the one originally used to send.  Apparently they do this to ensure they will still receive replies in the event of the original ‘spam’ address being shut down!  They are crafty buggers.

Another red flag is the request to send money through Western Union.  This process is untraceable and costs the sender money.  What if I was to say “hey can you give me $50?” only for you to then find out that it’s actually $60 you will pay?  Would you do it?  No, didn’t think so!  Do not transfer any money through Western Union unless you actually know the person (and yes, this includes people you ‘think’ you know…. if you haven’t met them in person, always proceed with caution!)

Sometimes its not even people offering you money, it can be the other way around.  I received an email recently from a ‘debt collector’ advising that I owe quite a lot of money and to find out more information on the account I must immediately go to their website and use my full name and date of birth as log in details…..

Ah, I don’t think so pal!!

I can see how people would fall for this one though, if you are told you owe money then you’d want to find out pretty quickly.  Once again, a quick google search confirmed my instincts.

Keep in mind too that is not just through emails that you may be targeted.  These shifty crims are also known to turn up on the other end of the phone line with requests to confirm your date of birth, or give them your full address details, or even recite credit card details over the phone.  If they rang you, then you should ALWAYS question why they asking for these details.  If you suspect something, then ask for a return phone number and tell them you will call them back.  If they refuse to comply then you’ve probably got trouble on the phone and should hang up immediately!

I became aware recently of an elderly lady who fell victim to thieves and lost quite a lot of money.  She had lost her wallet and received a phone call later that day from a person claiming to be from her bank.  They were aware she had lost her wallet and would cancel the cards just as soon as she could confirm her PIN.  Just like that.  The thieves had her bank cards, drivers license, address and now they had her PIN.

The best advice is to follow your gut instincts.  Always be slightly on guard with emails and phone calls, ask lots of questions and guard your identity.  Don’t be afraid to hang up the phone or leave an email unanswered until you have a chance to research things.  And if something does happen, be sure to report it immediately so that these scammers can be caught!

To learn more about current scams doing the rounds, or to report a potential scam, visit the SCAM WATCH website.


Scam Watch also features information on how to get help if you find yourself victim to scammers.

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