Friday 28 February 2014

Wham Bam Thank You Scam

In the beginning there were the mugus. You know who they were – if you’ve been online at all, you will have got mail from them at least once or twice. “Dear Friend,” the letters would begin, “forgive my indignation at contacting you in such a manner, but...” and he would go into a description of how he has funds in a foreign bank which he’s desperate to share with you. Or she would have a heartbreaking story of how her parents were killed in a civil war in Darkest Africa, leaving ten million dollars, and she’s stuck in a refugee camp and desperate to get out. You know the drill.

I used to have a lot of fun with mugus. Baiting them is a superb cyber sport, but one needs both patience and an audience for that. I mean, what the hell’s the point of mocking mugus if you don’t have someone to laugh and applaud as you go along? And I’m not the Ebola Monkey Man, after all.

In recent times, anyway, the mugus seem to have disappeared. I can’t tell the reason. Maybe I no longer give off whatever vibes attract mugus these days. Maybe all the mugu mail is going to my spam folder and I no longer check my spam folder, I just delete the lot outright. Maybe it’s just that people are getting smarter.

Here, hold that last thought. What am I saying? People are not getting smarter. People are not getting smarter at such an accelerated rate, at least here, that some of the older scams are resurfacing. Like, you know, the text message sent to your phone saying “you’ve won a random phone lottery and send your contact details including phone number back to us.” If your phone number won the lottery, idiot, and they’ve sent you a text to the phone, ask yourself at least why the hell they would want your phone number?


But these morons are everywhere, apparently, since according to the police they’re complaining that they were ripped off by people who promised them the money they’d won as soon as they paid the processing fees. I’d say the scammers are welcome to their money because obviously they’re too dumb to deserve it.

But a couple of the other scams going around aren’t that simple at all.

The first is the Facebook Friend Scam. This is apparently quite popular in India now, especially in this part of the country where the young have just discovered Fakebook. It works like this:

The scammer sets up a fake ID, pretending to be a young and attractive person living in a foreign country – preferably somewhere on the other side of the globe. He/she (or, for convenience, it) then befriends young and callow people of the opposite sex, and gets close enough to them to find out what they want most of all. They then say they’ve sent the dupe a gift of that item by parcel.

A few days later, then, the scammer or a confederate phones the dupe, claiming to be from the Customs and Excise, and says that the parcel has been seized by the department for non-payment of import duties or some other gobbledygook. The dupe is asked to pay the difference (an account number being helpfully provided) or else the parcel will be disposed of or returned to sender. Obviously, this “gift” being something he or she really wants, the dupe won’t want to lose it. If he or she contacts the “sender”, it says it’s so sorry and will send the money, but it’s going to take a few days, so please go ahead and pay it, honey pie. Of course once the money is paid, neither the “sender” nor the “customs office” is ever heard from again.

Who was that masked man?

Now in all these cases the dupe’s own greed is the motivating factor; nobody who isn’t greedy can be scammed in this way. But there’s another route to scamming, and that deals in something more powerful than greed: fear.

This, then, is the other new scam here: you get a phone call from a distant part of the country, too far for you to visit easily or conveniently, saying that a case has been registered against you in a court there and the police have issued a non-baliable warrant for your arrest. (This is more plausible than it sounds; the Indian police have been known to make false cases against people in order to ask bribes to withdraw them; I myself know a man in Goa who is, at this writing, defending himself in court after refusing to pay a bribe to have a false police case withdrawn.) They tell you that they are a law firm who are willing to go to court to fight your case for you and get a stay order on the arrest warrant, as soon as you forward a retainer to the account number they’ll provide. If you fall for this, of course, they will continue asking money for affidavits and court appearances till you wise up.

The essential requirement for this scam to succeed, of course, is that you have to be driven to panic and unable to think clearly.  Otherwise you might wonder, for example, how police in a part of the country you’ve never visited even know you exist, let alone register a case against you. And they try and pile on the pressure, pretending that the handcuffs are already clinking, so that you can expect the cops anytime. You cannot be allowed to take the time to think. Is that clear?

Because these are on the way. Yo.

Now, I can think of a couple of ways of turning the tables on these crooks. If your Fakebook “friend” talks about sending you a gift, insist on sending one to her first. Say that in your culture, it’s forbidden to accept a gift unless you’ve given one already. Watch her immediately try to wriggle out of being sent a gift, because that would immediately prove that the address she gave (if any) is fake.

And if the other lot call, just say, “Oh, my brother the police officer will take care of that. What was your number again? He’ll call to discuss the case with you.”

Evil, aren’t I?      

1 comment:

  1. Great ideas to get back at the scammers. I agree that those who fall for the scams are greedy and do deserve to get ripped off. I had not come across anything like the legal threat scams...........yet. No doubt they will hit the (not so old) US of A soon though. Thanks for this.


Full comment moderation is enabled on this site, which means that your comment will only be visible after the blog administrator (in other words, yours truly) approves it. The purpose of this is not to censor dissenting viewpoints; in fact, such viewpoints are welcome, though it may lead to challenges to provide sources and/or acerbic replies (I do not tolerate stupidity).

The purpose of this moderation is to eliminate spam, of which this blog attracts an inordinate amount. Spammers, be warned: it takes me less time to delete your garbage than it takes for you to post it.