I used to work for an international organisation ages ago. In this big organisation, email is one of the most important means of communication in the organisation and the most reliable. The size of organisation that I used to work for meant that its information technology security is one of the best in the world. However, one day a human resource staff forwarded an email. It contained, as usual, recruitment requests from other sister organisations.
I eagerly forwarded the same to my network and friends. After a week, I receive an ecstatic call from my father, who has retired as a foreign worker in Saudi Arabia. He told me that he was selected by headquarters to work in the US! When he told me about the process of his selection, one detail struck me—HQ was asking him to send an advance payment for his month-long training. This made me suspicious and I had to ask around the office. Lo and behold, they were also caught off-guard as they discovered that the purportedly email from HQ is in fact a scam.
I immediately explained to my dad the situation. He couldn’t believe what he’s hearing and was adamant that he’s being scammed. He was really convinced that it was legitimate despite my explanation—a more legitimate source since I’m already employed by that organisation. He just retired and he said that he would like to join the workforce again as times are really tough in the Philippines. After some prodding, he finally gave in and did not pursue the application or deposit around US$2,000 in training fee to a Chinese bank account.
It took him a while to talk to me again.
Fast forward to today. I recently advertised my car for sale on a number of online networks, i.e., Facebook, Perth gumtree and other local ad media. The one from Quokka gave me some attention. At first, I wasn’t able to reply to the inquiries as the emails from Quokka got caught in my spam folder (I should have heeded this as an omen!). So, when I found the seven inquiries, I immediately emailed them and told them my asking price.
They all replied and I chose to pursue the transaction with the highest bidder. Scott Bonnie told me that he was out of the country and will have somebody pick-up the car from me. It was my first time to sell online so I thought this was the norm. He also asked me to open up a Paypal account. I do not have a Paypal account as I do not have the need at the moment. I guess this was the time to open one, so I opened an account. I sent Scott the payment request and I promptly received an email from Paypal. Here’s the email:
(click on the image for a larger look)
What do you notice?
If you look closely, you will notice the email sender was from accountant.com, which is a parked website. Also, the sum of the price and shipping cost doesn’t add up. 🙂
Here’s the second email that I received purportedly from Paypal.
And then I receive an email from Scott Bonnie (an email that I really wanted to edit!) telling me that he has sent the money. He explained that he sent an additional $5000 for the shipping cost, $2,200 of which needed to be sent via Western Union. Ka-ching! You’re busted.
Some lessons learned, scammers are the best risk communicators on the earth. They have talked me to opening a Paypal account “for my safety” and they even cited safety as the reason for asking me to advance part of the shipping cost before they can credit the whole money to my Paypal account. Remember to check the source of your emails, check your the website address of the site you are visiting to ensure that it is legit.
Now as the authorities say, if it’s too good to be true, IT IS too good to be true.