How to Spot Online Hoaxes & Scams

Lets face it, its a dangerous world out there, with those who prey on the gullibility/naivety of others, and at times it can be quite devastating to say the least.

Chain Mail. Previously, the definition of chain mail used to be (Middle Ages) flexible armour made of interlinked metal rings.

In this age however, it has take on a whole new meaning.

Before we get into specifics, let us differentiate between the types of chain mails out there, of which there are maybe 3:

1) Harmless Mails. Emails that ask you to send to 10~20 people and something will appear on your screen, or someone you have a crush on will call you in 2 days. Comical, but not maniacal.

2) Aid mails. Please help find “so-&-so”, please forward, if you were a parent you would want this email forwarded. Also harmless, yet very dubious, some are true but severely outdated, and the method used is crude at best.

3) Phishing scams, and these are the worst. They start off with “Congratulations, you have won ….”, and then feel free to enter whatever it is you wish here.

Over the course of my online life, I have received a myriad of hoaxes and online scams. From the ever popular Michael Hunt missing child hoax, to the ever recurring “I am an attorney/ barrister in Malaysia, and my client was a very wealthy man who shared your last name, has passed away, and you can collect his inheritance, just fill these forms and send me some cash (link to a ton of these emails).

Lets not forget the ever popular African King in need of assistance, with billions in gold/ diamonds. Or the super popular Green Card Lottery Scam.


Tell-tale signs of Phoney messages - unprofessional emails

Visa Payment processing instructions
The fees must be paid using Western Union money transfer and will be processed by the U.S. embassy in the United Kingdom.
Western Union is a leading provider of International person-to-person money transfer. With more than 150 years experience and 245,000 Agent locations in over 200 countries and territories, Western Union is recognized for sending money quickly, reliably, and safety.
You can send the payment in U.S. dollars or equivalent of your local currency.

Click on the following link to find the nearest Western Union agency and send the fees payment :
Find Western Union Agency
If you are unable to find a Western Union agency near your location, you may ask a relative or friend to pay the fee on your behalf.

After you find a Western Union agency you need to go with cash money, an identity card(e.g passport or national identity card) and send the payment to the U.S. embassy agent address in United Kingdom:

Name : Duncan McIntyre (who is Duncan, and why is the US Diversity Lottery money going to him?)
Address: 24 Grosvenor Square
London, W1A 2LQ
United Kingdom

The payment must be sent to the above U.S. embassy agent address in United Kingdom because the U.S. Government decided this based on the diplomatic relations with your country.

At first I thought that all these methods were crackable, but then they evolved to being bogus job offers and job applications, I have reported a few to their original companies, informing them that their name was being used in a scam.

The medium has even evolved; you can now expect to receive phishing scams straight to your mobile phone, from places as far off as Germany.

Some people are naive. They believe that they can make money from nothing, that this is their opportunity, and some even said so what if I pay this person $100, they will send me $1,000,000. Maybe I can scam them.

What they do not realise is that with your details i.e. passport number etc. the scammers can steal your identity.

I am not here to judge, only to educate. Now keep in mind, I have fallen for some of these phishing scams, initially at first, but I wised up later.

First thing you need to do is THINK! Did you enter a lottery for the UK? USA? No. Hence, how did they get your email? Bogus.

Second. GOOGLE. Take a big chunk of the email, copy it and paste into Google Search.

Third. PAY ATTENTION. If you really did win the lottery, why is it being sent from an email

One time I received a scam from a phoney DV Lottery set-up. the email was from a .org/.us site, and the perpetrator actually spent the time to build up a phoney site, although it did look shoddy and unprofessional of a government institution.

Fourth. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FREE MONEY. These emails promising money for account details are most likely either phishing scams (in which you lose money) or high-end criminals who are laundering money (in which case, you committed a felony in aiding them).

There is a giant BUT here, one which happened to me personally.

I received an email from a person “claiming” to have checked my blog, liked it, and had a client who wished to place an ad link in 2 of my articles.

Now, at first I was skeptical, so I ran a Google search on the email etc. and came up empty handed, hence I agreed this must be bonafide, and since I really wasn’t asked to do much, i.e. pay money or anything, I humored her.

I informed an associate of mine of the content of the email I received, and she ran a Google search on the content, and presto, had a hit. Someone, somewhere, had received a very similar email and said it was a hoax, claiming the lady had asked him the exact same question she asked me, but in the end, nothing happened.

I had already replied, and thought, oh well, must wait to be discovered some other time.

I was surpised upon receiving further communication from the person, Sarah was her name. And it did not sound like a bot (more often than not, the barrister hoaxes are sent by bots, not persons, hence the verbatim copy of the body text being sent from various emails).

 Long story short, I was paid for those two links, and the money received went to purchase this domain. Fancy that.

So long as she wasn’t asking me for personal/ financial information, there was no harm in humoring her, and it came in my favor in the end.

Also, I remember watching a show a while back in which they sent out that chain mail asking for bank details and promised to pay $10,000 (or $1,000 cannot really recall), from all the people they sent it out to, one elderly man responded with his bank details, and they went to his house and gave him the $10,000. Now mind you, this was strictly for the show, its not what happens in real ife.

And in the end, you can take a horse to water, but you cannot force it to drink.

 Always check Hoax Slayer (link) to know when someone is trying to pull a fast one on you.

Stay safe, it is a dangerous world out there, especially online.

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