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Don't Become A Victim of Online Fraud

Don't Become A Victim of Online Fraud
By Chris Theberge

When it comes to online fraud, I take it personal because I was almost a victim. Looking back, I was very susceptible because I did not have the knowledge that I do now. It is not necessarily "knowledge", but more along the lines of "cautionary measures"; however, if I never took these, I would have been scammed again. It is not that I fall for anything, it is that scams are getting better and much harder to identify. This article is intended to prevent you from becoming scammed.

The story is very similar to many others who have gotten scammed. I had a car to sell, so posted on many classified ad sites (mostly all free) and put the asking price, with some room to negotiate. Within the next two days or so, I received an email from a guy named Prince Muhammad in United Arab Emirates who wanted to buy my car for his son. After sending a few pictures of the car, he emailed back with intense interest. He wanted to get it for his son's birthday and was willing to pay $500 more than my asking price of $5,000.

During those couple days of corresponding with Prince Muhammad, I received another four or five emails from others in outside countries very "interested" in buying the car. Each person had a different story, mostly "auto dealers" or "agents" who had clients interested in the car and  willing to pay the asking price, sometimes a little more. In the end I decided to sell to Prince Muhammad because he was the first to contact me and it would be nice to help him get his son a birthday gift like this. Prince Muhammad was currently working on an oil field and was unable to travel to the US to get the car, so he proposed something else. He had a client in the US who owed him $11,615, so just have that client send me a cashier's check with the full amount and I would send the remainder via Western Union, after deducting the price of the car. Prince Muhammad even called me two times to set this up, although I could not really him very well over the phone.

After three days, I received a BankOne check sent from somewhere in New York for the amount of $11,615 endorsed to me. The check looked very real. Wow, I thought, this is really going to happen. So I deposited the check and waited for it to clear before I would send the money via Western Union. My bank usually clears a check in three days max. A day after depositing the check, Prince Muhammad wanted me to send the remaining money. I told him not until the check clears, which he reinforced to send the money as soon as it does. After four days, I called my bank to see why the check had not cleared yet and they informed me that it was possibly fraudulent. So I contacted Muhammad to let him know about the check but he was nowhere to be found. I received the check back in the mail with a big fraudulent stamp on it and a $50 fee from my bank. Thankfully I did not have to pay the $50 fee, but even more thankfully, I did not have to pay back $6,115.

When reading this story, most people will probably be thinking, how could anyone fall for this? Well it is quite easy, especially if you had never heard of this scam before. This happened back in 2003, when people started to report that they lost thousands of dollars after selling cars and items overseas. I might have read a small blurb in a local paper before this happened, but never really saw any real media coverage on the issue. It was not until I did more extensive research by reading forum posts and listservs from others who experienced this. There is now a little more awareness of this scam; yet, it is still happening on a daily basis. To this day, I still receive emails from scam artists trying to buy my car.

In order to prevent being scammed yourself, you must be able to identify a scam on the spot. Things to watch out for:
1. Proper grammar, English, and sentence structure
2. Proper name stuctures (i.e., Pierce Edward vs Edward Pierce; Woodward Stuart vs Stuart Woodward)
3. Obvious copy and paste
4. Outside buyers that are clients, agents, car companies that have ties to the US
5. Emails from yahoo.com, excite.com, and other free services
6. The word cashier's check
7. Willingness to send more than the car is worth for you to return the remainder. If you think about it, who would be so trusting?
8. NEVER send something until you have the money in your possession. ALWAYS wait for funds to clear.
9. Are these people really from where they say they are? In order to find this out, please continue reading for how to determine that.

Below are two real emails that I received within the past month:

My name THOMAS BACON i`m interested in purchasing your advertised car and the price $500 is okay with me,And i will like you not to worry about the shipping, I contact a friend in the states so he said he can organize an agent in the Europe who would be on ground to pick up the car as soon as we seal this transaction and i will like you to know that my mode of payment is by cashier's cheque drawn from a US bank . It is a very good car.I Iook forward to hear from you soon. Respond asap if this is ok by you.
Good day,

I am Paul woodward,the sales/purchase manager for OASIS AUTOMOBILE CORPORATION.We are specialised in the sales/purhcase of vehicles.A client of ours came accross your vehicle & informed us of his interest in your vehicle we will like to know if it is still available.Please contact us,the price of the vehicle&send the pictures of the vehicle along with the reply to indicate your willingness.

Paul Woodward

Phishing Scams

    The latest scam threat is something known as Phishing. Phishing is a real problem because the emails appear authentic to those who receive them. Phishing emails are usually from bank companies, eBay, Paypal, and other institutions that have personal information. A phishing email is not very obvious because they will be addressed to your full name and the email will look like emails you have received from these companies. Although many say it is hard to spot a phishing email, it really isn't if you know how to do a few things. Below are some strategies to prevent yourself from being scammed.

NEVER Click on a link or log in to something through your email

A good example would be an email from eBay asking you to update your account. The email will have your full name and have the logos, etc.. It will look legit. Think about it this way: How long have you been a member of eBay or your bank, and how often have you received emails from them? I have never received an email from my bank and only one from eBay after using it. These companies know of these scams and will purposely avoid sending emails to you like this. What is the real need to update anything? Most sites do that for you automatically. If you have not used eBay in 2 years, what are you going to update?

NEVER Click a link without know where it really goes

This is a little example to show you how easy it is to scam someone who never looks at this. When you put your mouse over a link, the path will be displayed on the bottom left corner of your browser (above Start button). This is for internet explorer/Outlook, etc.., but other browsers might show it elsewhere. I want you to try it.  Put your mouse over this link (don't click it): EBAY. Now you should see http://www.ebay.com show up on the bottom left of your browser.

I am now going to do the same thing again, and this time I am going to show you what a phishing link will look like: EBAY. When you highlight over that, you should have seen http://66.231.590/xxx/www.ebay.com/. I just made this link up so it will not go to the login page, but a real phishing link would. When you log in to a phishing link, you have just sent your personal information to the scam artist. They can then do what they want with it, like draining your bank account.

WHERE is the person sending you an email really from?

You can find out where someone is from by looking up their IP address. When you get an email, you can view something known as headers and footers. I use Outlook Express, but other programs will have this information. I am going to just explain this for Outlook users, but the principles are the same.

In Outlook, right click on a received email and select Properties at the Bottom. Next click Details.
You should have a Return Path, with an email address in it, and below a Received from with an IP address [numbers]. You may have a couple Return paths because of exchange servers, but you can get the gist of where they are from by checking both. To check go to WHOIS and copy and paste the IP into the box and hit enter. The server should come up. Now, this is not the exact address, but you can get the country pretty accurately. When it comes to free email systems like yahoo and hotmail, tracing is virtually impossible, but you can still get some sort of information. That is why scammers like them so much.

In the end, I hope you learned something and can become a more cautious web user. Please send this article to all you know so that we can stop supporting terrorists and scam artists.

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