3 New Nigerian Scams Uncovered — Plus a Personal Family Identity Theft Scare

Clever new Nigerian scams and a scary, personal story about family identity theft: Internet ScamBusters #309

Nigerian scams are always in the headlines but by now you’d
think we’ve seen all the tricks these crooks have up their
sleeves. Not so. This week, we want to let you know about 3
new twists on well known Nigerian scams.

We also share a personal family scare related to identity
theft, and our experience with how identity theft prevention
company LifeLock performed in this situation.

Before we begin, we recommend you check out this week’s issue
of Scamlines — What’s New in Scams?

Next, you may want to spend a moment looking at this week’s
most popular articles from our other sites:

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Mistakes People Commonly Make Using Facebook: Two common mistakes made often on Facebook and what you can do to fix them.

How Do You Take More Identity Theft Prevention Precautions? More tips on identity theft precautions you should know.

Now, here we go…

3 New Nigerian Scams Uncovered

Here are three new clever twists to the Nigerian scam…

Nigerian twist #1: Trust me — send no money

The scam: In London, England, a would-be renter is fooled
into believing she’s dealing with a legitimate apartment owner
when he tells her there’s no need to send an advance payment
to him.

The cunning crook spins a story about having trouble with
previous renters and wanting proof of her ability to pay. But
he suggests she should send some money — about $2500 — as an
electronic payment to a friend or relative of her choice.

That way, he says, it will prove she has the money but it will
remain safe. Here’s the catch: as proof of payment, he asks
for a scanned copy of the transfer payment. A while later,
posing as the friend or relative, he uses this copy to collect
the money from a Western Union office.

The solution: It’s not clear if Western Union was fooled into
thinking the document was an original or if they will pay out
on presentation of a copy. All they would say is that they are
investigating the scam.

Meanwhile, the message is clear: not only should you not send
electronic payments to someone you don’t know and trust but
also don’t send them a copy either.

More on rental scams on sites like Craigslist.

Nigerian twist #2: Send me the stuff — I’ll use PayPal

The scam: Wise to the use of forged checks and stolen credit
cards to pay for items they’re selling, many vendors using
services like eBay and Craigslist now insist they’ll only
accept payments via PayPal, especially to buyers who ask for
shipment overseas — usually to Africa.

Fine. But what happens when you get an email apparently from
PayPal saying your account has now been credited with the
money you’re awaiting?

Well, if you don’t independently check your account, you may
have just received a fake message that’s not from PayPal at all.

It’s easy to do if the buyer gets your email address and it’s
just as easy for scammers to design a message that looks like
the real thing. And that’s what they’re now doing in a big way.

The solution: Simple. As suggested above, check your PayPal
account to make sure the money really is there.

We covered other types of PayPal-related scams on our site.

Nigerian twist #3: It’s OK — we’re the FBI, um, the President

The scam: A resident of North Kenai, Alaska, sniffs out a scam
when she receives a $30,000 check, supposedly from the Central
Bank of Nigeria, and is told to take 10% and forward the rest.
She doesn’t.

Later she gets what seems to be an email from the FBI. It says
they’ve been monitoring her email and investigating the bank
and “confirmed your contract payment is 100% genuine and hitch

She still doesn’t bite, so a couple of days later the scammers
send another message, this time from the “United Nations 2007
Compensations Payments Directive” saying the Nigerian
government is concerned about its image and the President
wants to pay the woman $300,000 compensation to redeem its
good name!

Now, of course, they just want her bank details so they can
forward the money. She doesn’t fall for that either.

The solution: Talk about persistence! As usual, the warnings
here are that you don’t get money for nothing, never wire cash
to someone you don’t know, and don’t give your bank details to
someone you don’t know — even someone who says he’s the
President of Nigeria!

For more information about Nigerian-type scams, check out
these Scambusters articles related to the Nigerian fee scam.

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Nigerian Scams

A Personal Family Identity Theft Scare

We recently got a call from our mother, who said she got a
letter from the Social Security Administration about her
request to direct deposit her Social Security check.

Since she had not requested direct deposit from the Social
Security Administration, she was very concerned.

In the same day’s mail was a letter about a new credit card
application she had supposedly applied for.

Again, she hadn’t applied for a new credit card.

She asked us if we thought this was identity theft.
Unfortunately, it sounded VERY much like identity theft to us.

Since we’d enrolled her with LifeLock’s identity theft
protection service, we had her call the LifeLock 800 number
and talk to one of their customer service specialists.

He also said this sounded like a case of identity theft and
immediately swung into action. He was very helpful, and
worked with her to quickly determine if there was a breach.

As it turned out, our mother had recently opened a new bank
account. We found out that the new bank had requested the
direct deposit of her Social Security check into her account,
and had applied for a credit card for her — both without her
knowledge. (That was obviously VERY disconcerting.)

However more importantly, it turned out that her identity had
NOT been stolen — which was an enormous relief.

We were all very satisfied with how well LifeLock handled the
situation. Fortunately it was a false alarm, but it was very
reassuring to discover they were there when we thought we
needed them.

That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!