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REAL SCAMS

There are no genuine "get rich quick" schemes that really work.  Somebody will get hurt or shorted and it will probably be you.  Don't ever send money to anyone you don't know.  Don't ever put your credit card or checking account number into anything except a secure server from a company you have checked out or know.  Don't ever give out banking information or PIN #'s by phone. Don't ever respond to any email claiming to be from your bank. Be careful when investigating MLM's or work-at-home ideas.  Some are nothing more than recruitment schemes with no products behind them.  Others may actually be total scams.  Check them out thoroughly.  Never call area codes that you can't verify are local and never call 900 numbers.  I hope that I need not say not to call psychic hotlines or sex related numbers to anyone reading this site. 

Contents:  People of faith more vulnerable to frauds    Nigerian or advance fee scams    Lottery Scams    Pyramid schemes    Chain letters    Marketing schemes    Phone scams

 

People of Faith More Vulnerable to Frauds

This was the headline of a December 15, 2001 article by Don Thompson of the Associated Press, printed in the Daily Commercial newspaper in Lake County, FL.  Mr. Thompson says that "con artists prey upon people's willingness to believe members of their same religious, ethnic, career or community-based group."

He further states that religious scams may be the most common, lucrative and insidious of all," and that "the victim's faith - faith in God, faith in the clergy, faith in fellow believers - is used against them."

The North American Securities Administrators Association says there were $500 million in losses from religious scams in 1989, which was the first time they had ever totaled losses from these types of scams.  This number has increased significantly in the last three years.

The newest versions of the Nigerian Scam letter (detailed below) have targeted Christians by claiming that some of the money will be used for ministry purposes.

I hope that the information shown below helps you to distinguish a few of these illegal email scams.

Nigerian or Advance Fee Scams

You receive an email detailing the plight of a military or political leader or family member of such, ousted from his/her country.  No matter what country is mentioned, the scheme usually originates in Nigeria.  You are told that a great deal of money was gotten out of the country at the last minute, but that it is tied up in red tape.  You are asked for help.  Sometimes the help wanted is told right in the message, sometimes you are asked to email back for details.  The help that you can give is to loan money.  The writer claims that you will receive a great deal more back once the tied up money is released.  This is not a joke nor a hoax, but a REAL SCAM.   I've seen a number of different versions of this scam.  The U.S. Secret Service is taking this seriously and has set up a special task force to deal with it called 419 (this is section of the Nigerian penal code which deals with fraud).  If you have lost any money to this fraud, you must contact the local field office of the Secret Service.   It is nearly unbelievable that anyone would fall for one of these scams, but the Secret Service says that many people do, and they lose thousands of dollars.  Apparently these scams are also under-reported because people are too embarrassed about having been so foolish to report them.

If you live in a country other than the United States, or just want more information on this scam,  click this link for an article telling you where to report these messages.  This is information from the 419 Coalition. 

This article also says: "According to State Department figures (PDF), 25 murders or disappearances of Americans abroad have been directly linked to 419 fraud. Other people have been held against their will, beaten and blackmailed, according to information provided by the U.S. Embassy in Lagos."

According to the Religion News Blog, the folks down at 419eater.com  have tried to scam the scammer,  keeping them dangling with outrageous demands and lies.  I don't suggest this for any Christian, but the result is both amusing and sad. 

Scambusting site Quatloos has articles on one Brad Christianson, who has been baiting the Nigerian scam criminals for years.

Lottery Scams

The message says that you've won a lottery in another country - one you never bought a ticket for.  These lottery messages are just another form of advance fee fraud. The scammers (criminals) send out millions at one time and purchase lists just like any other spammer.

Here's how this scam works:  If you contacted these people, you would be instructed to either give your personal banking information or to pay money in order to receive the winnings.  It would be called some sort of needed fee to get the money out of the country.  If you give your account info, they will simply take all the money out of it.

Our local news had a storyline on this fraud in 2005.  There were people interviewed who refused to believe that it was a scam, despite the fact that they had already paid out thousands of dollars and wiped out their entire life savings.  One lady paid over $5,000.

Here's a good article on this scam: 

 http://www.consumer-ministry.govt.nz/scams/scamwatch-spanishlotteries.html

 

No one can win a lottery unless they sign up for it and pay the lottery fee.  You won't be notified that you've won a lottery by email either.

Pyramid Schemes

You receive an invitation to earn money just by signing other people up for the program.  Some may ask you to include a product, others may not offer anything more than the sign up.  These are pyramid schemes that cannot work except at the top levels.  You are asked to send money to join.  You receive money for those that you recruit to the program.  You also receive money for those that your "recruitees" bring in.  This is nothing more than a scam. I saw one recently that required $200 to join. In order to earn anything, you would need to know 10 other people who could part with $200. You earnings depend on each of them knowing 10 people who will part with $200.  I don't know 10 people who could get shell out $200 like this.  Most people will probably never recoup the $200.

Chain Letters

You are asked to send a minimal amount of money to the name at the top of a list, delete that name and add your name to the bottom, and recruit 5 or 10 people to do the same by sending them the letter with your name at the bottom.  Money is made solely by getting new recruits to join the chain, adding their names to the list and recruiting others to do the same. In theory, eventually each recruit's name will be at the top of millions of lists and receive millions of dollars. In practice, most people will receive nothing. Anyone can break the chain, thus depriving all those on the list of any possible "earnings." But, even if no one broke the chain, 95% of those who sent money out will get nothing in return.  This is illegal no matter what the message says about it.  A recent version tries to get around the law by not using U.S. mail and, instead, using Pay Pal.  If you receive one of these, please report it to Pay Pal.  Pay Pal can then remove their account and bar them from using the Pay Pal system for this illegal scheme.

Marketing Schemes

You receive an offer for a free vacation. Usually these vacations include substandard accommodations.  You have to take a tour of a facility and listen to a sales pitch.  One I saw recently, which was an ad for nutritional supplements, offered a bare 2,000 sq. ft. lot in Mexico, supposedly right on the beach - for a $100 fee.  This was most likely a scam.  If real property was involved, it isn't likely to have been the one shown.  It is my understanding that land in Mexico cannot be purchased by residents of other countries, only leased.  The ad came with a form to fill out with your credit card number!  I would say that this was a definite scam.  NEVER put your credit card number ANYWHERE on the net except on site that offers a secure server and has a good reputation!  NEVER give your checking account number or credit card number to anyone!

Phone Scams

The most prevalent phone scam is the 809 area code scam. Other area codes are also involved.  You get a message to call a number that has an 809 area code.  The message may claim that you've won something and must claim it, or that someone you know is ill or has been arrested. These are numbers to other countries.  You will either get a recorded message or phone spiel.  What you don't know is that these numbers work just like 900 numbers and you will be charged an outrageous per minute sum.  

Another scam involves someone claiming to be a telephone co. employee checking lines.  A person is asked to dial 90#.  This allows persons in jail to make calls from that number.  However, this particular scheme would not effect residential customers, just businesses.  It requires a system that must dial 9 to get an outside line.  AT & T claims that this scam has been perpetrated on "businesses, hospitals, government agencies and other organizations that use telephone switching equipment called private branch exchanges (PBXs) to handle their calls."  They have a phone number to call to report this.  However, there are some that say that it cannot be a genuine scam at all - only a hoax.   I've had an explanation of why  this is impossible to do even on a PBX system and it certainly sounds very reasonable and knowledgeable.    The circulating email message is certainly a hoax.

 

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Truth Miners is run by, owned by, written by and maintained by Cathy Holden - all articles, unless noted, are written by me.  Ask for reprint permission please.  Thanks!