Who hasn’t received the Nigerian prince email? This phishing scam purports to be from a high-ranking Nigerian official who needs financial assistance or personal information to retrieve an alleged inheritance. We recently helped our client who fell victim to one of these scams because of a deceitful added element. The message appeared to come from a friend. Scammers are using Facebook Messenger to convince innocent people to deposit money into an account to pay for “government grants or scholarships.” They mask themselves as a friend or family member and sometimes they even use a picture to prove validity.
Recently one of our clients received a message from someone who appeared to be a coworker, telling our client about a grant the coworker recently received. Intrigued and looking for ways to pay upcoming tuition bills, our client was put in touch with the co-worker’s “grant agent” who then asked for personal information like full name, date of birth and contact information and “references.” In order to get the promised $155,500 grant, our client deposited $6,700 into a national bank for “processing fees.” Within an hour of making the deposit our client realized it was a con and rushed back to the bank to alert them of the suspected fraud. Once a bank is made aware that one of its customers is using the bank as an instrumentality for fraud, it has a duty to investigate. Luckily, in our case the bank had the ability to freeze the ill gotten deposit before it was swept away for good. We were successful in getting our client her money back, but she was lucky.
In today’s era of fake news and untrustworthiness, we need to be on high alert. What we think is real, is not. Here are ways to identify and avoid online fraud and phone scams:
Look for typos. if there is any suspicious misspellings or improper grammar, don’t trust the message.
Do online searches. Research companies, names, products or anything being pitched.
Protect your personal data. Don’t disclose personal information over social media, phone, text, or email.
Don’t believe caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number are not always real.
Consider the form of payment. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payments don’t. Wiring money through services is risky and almost impossible to get money returned. Don’t wire large amounts of money to someone you don’t know.
Talk to someone you trust. A con artist will want fast action. Take the time to talk to someone. Just talking it out will sometimes help and will slow down the process.
Never pay to get. If you have to pay money to receive a grant, inheritance or lottery winning…. It’s a scam.
Free scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission are available. To receive alerts, go to ftc.gov/scams. Our firm has the experience and tools to protect against phishing scams. Please contact us for more information.