EDITORIAL – A St. George News reader posed a question today which, in evaluating, serves as a reminder of things to watch for in enticements we receive, enticements that are designed to defraud us and take our money.
“I got an email yesterday From PCH Lotto* clamming I just won 1,000,000.00 in their Email lottery. My concern is the say the have turned my winning check over to a courier service. It went on to say I have to pay the delivery fees first to claim the prize. I know this sounds like a scam to me but if it is real I do not want to ignore it. So I ask have you heard any reports of this as fraud? I have looked on the net (And Snopes.com) but found nothing.”
Your specific email scenario would be difficult to pin down because those kinds of schemes are myriad and those advancing them are almost impossible to reach. But we can tell you that the use of email, text, telephone, and other avenues of contact, to entice money out of your pocket first, before their promised reward of money to you delivers, are common.
The adage applies, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
Although not directly on point to email scams, St. George News published an article some months ago that offers characteristics typical of phishing schemes and steps to take when you think you may be being scammed. The particulars of that article spawned from a phishing scam then occurring in the Southern Utah area through the use of text and telephone. Please see article here.
Further, there are various schemes where someone offers to buy something you may be advertising for sale on a classified ads type of website. The purported buyer agrees to pay full price and will send, or does send, a cashier’s check for deposit. Typically, the check will be for more than the sale price agreed. The purported buyer then asks you to refund the difference. You send your refund while the cashier’s check makes its way through your own bank account process. These cashier’s checks are fraudulent but produced so well that it can take the bank weeks to reject them. By then, your refund of the overage has cleared to the purported buyer, their false purchase payment cancels out, and you are out the money you sent them for refund. Note that these purported buyers have no interest in the property you are selling and will never show up to pick up the item.
When a promise is made from someone you have never before encountered that is contingent on you first anteing up any money, for shipping or otherwise, best wisdom is, don’t do it.
Another email scam generates from hackers of your friend’s email account. It tells you that they are overseas, have just been held at knifepoint, robbed of all money and even passports. The email apologizes for writing you in desperation but asks you to transmit cash to help them immediately, usually suggesting the likes of western union transmission. You may reply asking your friend if this is for real, the imposter will even respond to you. If you ask them to describe something personal only you and your real friend know, then chances are you won’t hear from them again. You can usually identify these kinds of scams by noticing odd phrasing, or manner of speak that is atypical of your friend. Bottom line, it is not your friend, and your real friend needs to be alerted to advise his email Internet service provider that his account has been hacked, should change passwords, and take measures of that nature.
Although it is impossible for St. George News to adequately discover the merits of your particular enticement, we trust that these scenarios and the more articulate article linked above will add to your own personal mental toolbox, equipping you to judge these kinds of “gold rush coming your way” promises safely and shrewdly.
* Case in point of judging shrewdly is our reader, who gave us an update on his own investigation. “I did a bit more looking around and found PCH abuse line and called,” R.d. Keith said. “It is a scam and has been reported as such and the domain is reported as well. I knew it was to [sic] good to be true that is why I looked around a bit before I did anything.”