Internet fraud has become a constant threat. Whether on eBay, Facebook or Amazon. By email, phone or chat fraudsters are trying to get our information, identity or money.
The idea of scamming people is older than the Internet. There are sources that point out that cheating already took place at the Olympic Games in ancient Greece. Of course this has little to do with modern internet fraud, but the basic idea of the fraudster is always similar, he wants to gain a material advantage.
Internet fraud before the times of the Internet
In the late 19th century, well before the introduction of the Internet, “Spanish Prisoner” fraud was a popular form of advance payment fraud. A New York Times article from 1898 deals with this scam. In its original form, the impostor tells his victim that he is a wealthy person of great fortune who is in prison in Spain under a false identity. In some versions the imprisoned person was an unknown or distant relative of the victim. The money for the release is requested in a letter.
The victim is therefore asked to raise part of the money, with the promise of a larger financial reward upon the release of the prisoner. Often a non-monetary incentive was also given, for example in the form of the hand of a beautiful woman. After the victim has handed over the money, he is informed that further difficulties have arisen and that more money is needed. This game continues until at some point the victim does not hand over any more money.
Internet fraud in the early days of the Internet
The “Spanish Prisoner” strongly reminds today’s reader of the so-called “Prince from Nigeria” scams, which were extremely successful by fax & e-mail. This is also a case of advance payment fraud. Advance payment fraud follows similar patterns. Usually such a fraud starts when the perpetrator contacts the victim via e-mail, instant messaging or social media using a fake e-mail address or social media account and makes an offer. Allegedly, the offer is about a large payout for the victim. The subject line of an email may say something like “From Prince [name]’s desk,” “Your help is needed,” or something similar. The details vary, but the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows about a large amount of unclaimed money or gold that they cannot access directly because they usually have no right to it. The money can come in various forms including gold bars, gold dust, money in a bank account, blood diamonds, a series of checks or bank drafts. The sums involved are usually in the millions, and the victim is promised a large sum if he or she helps the fraudster recover the money or take it abroad.
Five indications that you become a victim
Of course, there are a lot of fraudulent schemes that are being carried out nowadays. Romance scams are among them, as well as scams with Nespresso capsules. What exactly is hidden behind them, we will describe in the next blog post of this series. However, there are ten points you can use as a guide if you don’t want to fall victim to a scam. In this post we will list five of the ten clues:
- Call to action – you should click or perform something NOW and not hesitate for long.
- Act now or lose – If you do hesitate too long, the offer will be withdrawn, more expensive or less attractive
- Charging – you should pay something to win a prize. Almost every lottery that asks you to pay money in advance is a scam.
- Guarantees – Only good prospects are predicted, for example a day trading concept where you earn up to €3,000 a day.
- Personal information – If you are asked many personal questions, for example about your health, passwords, bank account details or debts, it is likely to be fraud.
If you receive an offer that contains a tip, you should be skeptical. If a contact contains more than one of these hints, it is better to refrain from it. In our live hacking we show different types of modern online fraud. Please feel free to contact us without obligation. Especially for offers that include financial or credit decisions, you should listen to the offer and wait 24 hours until you make a decision. Never make short-term decisions when you get an offer that is “too good to be true”.
This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)