$36 million is a lot of money and according to an article on The Age website that’s how much Australians lose every year to “Nigerian scams”.
These sort of scams have been around for years and have moved with the times to follow people on to the Internet, which has given scammers a lot more opportunities to take victims’ money. While there are plenty of variations, the basic ideas are pretty simple – con artists trick people into sending them money, usually overseas, in return for the promise of receiving money or goods.
Some of the stories given are quite elaborate, including money trapped in bank vaults, inheritances from a deceased relative, ‘exclusive’ share offers, multi-billion dollar lotteries and the need to pay bribes to get money through Customs. At the end of the day, they’re all after the same thing: to take your money.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has a great site called SCAMwatch that has up-to-date information on scams and stories of people who have been trapped.
While it might seem daunting to know there are people out there looking to take your money, there are some relatively simple precautions you can take to help keep your money safe.
• Don’t reply to any emails or letters from people you don’t know.
• If someone asks for your credit card or bank account details to process a ‘prize’ or commission then it’s likely to be scam.
• Keep track of your accounts using internet banking and regularly checking your statements.
A growing trend is scamming people who are lonely or looking for companionship. Victims often receive an email from someone claiming to be from Eastern Europe who is looking to find love in Australia. After a few weeks email conversations, there’s often a request to either send money to help pay for an airfare or to help them transfer money out of the country.
Be very careful of sending money to anyone you meet on the internet.
Of course, scammers still use traditional ‘junk mail’ to fleece people of their money. Plenty of people - including my own mum! - get letters in the mail about lottery wins, money in foreign banks and dodgy pyramid schemes.
If you get receive something that seems a little suspect, follow the old adage: if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is.