Dissecting a scam:
I have had quite a few people over time ask me how I can tell if an email (or text message) that they have received is a scam. Having seen about 18,000 scams at the time of this writing I find it very simple. I can look at something for under a second generally and tell that it is a scam. If the email is unsolicited (that is to say I didn’t ask for it) that’s a big ‘red flag’ for me. Bad grammar and/or ALL CAPS is a ‘red flag’ also.
As I say elsewhere and frequently – these scams target the weak and the desperate. I presume everything is spam or a scam.
My comments will start with a Q)
Here’s a scam we received fairly recently:
From: “James Rosen”<email@example.com>
Q) Red flag here – the email address they want me to email (the reply-to email address) is a FREE email address, masked by a seemingly legitimate company name in the From: email address. Most legitimate companies don’t do this. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether an email service provider is free or not. Why they use free email addresses is that by the nature of their business email accounts get shut down once people figure out that they are scammers. You will also notice that they have a ‘forged’ from address.
Subject: JOB OFFER(MY COMPANY NEED YOUR RESPONSE)
Q) We are being commanded to reply to these people. For me that’s another red flag… anything that says urgent is a red flag too. Bad grammar alert!
Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2010 15:47:19 +0100
Q) Do I know these people? How do they know my email address? I didn’t ask for this email.
Indiana Coat Fabrics
Office address: Enterprise Dr
United States of America
Q) While Indiana Coated Fabrics is a real company as far as I can tell, the scammers are using their name and perpetuate their scam. This is quite a common tactic.
Tel: +1 219-232-5234
Q) If you Google this phone number, you will find that it is being used for MANY scams. It is probably a phone number that’s forwarded to another number in the UK or in Nigeria.
Indiana Coat Fabrics is in search of a bookkeeper/company representative in
Q) Indiana ‘Coat’ Fabrics? Consistency error… red flag.
the United States, Canada and the UK. This project has been developed in a way
not to affect your present job nor bring you any form of stress but in order to
help take care of those Extra costs while you work for us.
Q) Why am I receiving this email? I didn’t sign up for this… is this spam? (The answer is ‘yes’, by the way.) While we’re on the subject of ‘why am I receiving this email,’
Indiana Coat Fabrics is a company that deals in the production and supplies of
Batik, Assorted African fabrics, various clothing Materials, African art
materials and all kinds of furniture’s for exporting to the world. Presently our
website is under Construction and should be ready soon. Recently It came to my
knowledge that there are a lot of lapses in handling funds coming from our
clients in the US, Canada and UK which come in forms of Bank transfer, Company
checks and Money Orders which are not readily cashable outside the United
States, Canada and UK,….So we need someone in the US, Canada, Mexico and UK to
work as our representatives and assist us in processing the payments from our
various clients which come in on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. This is why
we decided to employ a representative over in the US, Canada, Mexico and UK to
help us receive our payments at your contact address you shall be providing us,
in order to process our payment from our clients. All you need to do is receive
these payments from our clients in country. Get it deposited at your bank for
24hours, Cash it after 24hours then deduct your percentage (10% of each payment)
plus transfer charges and forward the balance funds to one of company’s
representative via Western Union.
Q) This is a ‘money mule’ scam, as the Suckers Wanted folks call it. You will be sent forged forms of payment and they are asking you to deposit them in your bank. You will then be asked to send the payment (minus your percentage as ‘salary’) via Western Union to these folks. Here’s the catch … did you notice that I said ‘forged forms of payment’ above – in a lot of cases your bank will give you credit before the forged check or money order clears – this is what the scammers are asking you to wire to them. And for the record, international Western Union payments are not retrievable.
Q) And … as the Suckers Wanted folks say in their analysis essentially that you will be laundering money on these people’s behalf. Money Laundering is illegal, by the way.
Our payments will be issued out in your name as we would inform our clients to
do. Therefore the following details would be Needed: I would require you to send
me an email with the following details;
1) Your Full name
2) Your Address
3) Your Phone number
4) Your Age
5) Your Occupation
6) Are You a Property Owner?
7) Bank Name
9) Do you have a Regular Credit Card Account and what is the limit?
Q) Why do they want all this information? One of the reasons they want all this is to see how susceptible you are to being scammed and to give them information that will tell them more ways that you can be scammed.
We would forward these information’s to our clients and they will start making
payments to you as the company’s representative in the states, Canada, Mexico or
Once we have all your details in our records, we would notify you as soon as we
confirm that one of our clients is mailing Payment across to you.
Please note we have security experts, who work in hand with the FBI & IRS to
detect the validity of the details you provide us, should there be foul play.
Q) My bullcrap detector went off on the above paragraph… trying to scare us by mentioning the FBI and IRS.
I hope to read from you soon.
James Rosen, Managing director
Indiana Coat Fabrics
Office address: Enterprise Dr.
Q) Can’t you silly people even give me a complete street address for this company or use the correct company name? Humph.
United States of America.
Tel: +1 219-232-5234
Q) So, in the final analysis what can be done about these scams? The people I’ve been reading say either to report them to the IC3 (www.ic3.gov – the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center) or to just delete them. Don’t reply to the scams unless you have lots of time to play with the scammers – I’m not one of those people.
Q) And if you still want to ask me if something is a scam or not? I will always tell you that it is a scam. In the two plus years that I have been running ScamOfTheDay.com I have NEVER talked to anyone who got ‘the big money.’ And I have received lots of sad stories from people who have lost LOTS of money dealing with the scammers – some have even been arrested for passing forged checks!
Q) While we’re here, let’s touch on another common type of scam that’s VERY common these days. The most common type of scam that I see these days is the email (or text message) that says something like YOU HAVE WON MILLIONS OF DOLLARS! To cut to the chase what happens with these is that they ask for money – for processing fees or whatever. And then they ask for more money… and this goes on with them saying whatever it takes for you to send them more money for this-and-that. But you never get the BIG MONEY – that’s why they call these ‘Advance-fee scams’… you’re paying a fee in advance for something that you will never receive.
Commentary copyright (c) 2010 – Brian Durham – ScamOfTheDay.com