Tightening the noose on online money scammers

Who hasn't received an email asking them to send money to the other side of the world? One country where online scammers are making a very profitable living, the Ivory Coast, is threatening to launch a crackdown on the fraudsters.

In general, people are tricked into sending money after an exchange of friendly and/or desperate emails from a pastor renting his flat in London/a millionaire who lost his cheque book, a penniless bride etc. Online scammers, who think up new ways to swindle your money daily, have become masters of persuasion with fake documents at the ready for those of us harder to convince.

Either the person is too trusting or a victim of blackmail (compromising photos included...), the money is then wired through a money transfer agency and happily withdrawn by the trickster at the other end, with a slice handed over to the unquestioning cashier at the desk. A fraud expert tells us here how they're closing in on these anonymous scammers.

Have you been victim to an online money transfer scam? Post your account.

Contributors

Showing off their gains

A compilation of photos posted online by scammers. Posted by "croquescrocs".

“For some it’s their primary source of revenue”

Abraham Djekou, 43, is a telecommunications technician from Abidjan. He works for national telecommunications agency ATCI and is currently involved in a surveillance project that is forming part of the crackdown.

The scamming phenomenon took off around a decade ago and has got increasingly bigger since. In the beginning it was work that only a few specialists knew how to do, but youngsters picked up the trade quickly. Here in Ivory Coast they almost always target Europeans. It's not a one-man job; the scammers have several accomplices, particularly in money transfer agencies near to them, where the scammers come to collect money sent from abroad.

In Abidjan there are certain districts known for scam-operating areas, Treichville and Marcory being two of them. For some people it's their primary source of revenue. Encouraged by internet anonymity and the conviction of their victims, many have made a fortune. But our country's reputation has suffered from their swindling. As a nationality we've been blacklisted on the Internet. Some major websites have blocked our IP addresses. Economically we're penalised when it comes to online transfers and transactions.    

In order to fight this plague, we've set up a cyber-criminality platform to survey the scammers, hand them over to the police, and have them brought to justice. This is going to cut this kind of crime by 80% in the coming months. There's also a law coming into play next month which will mean that web users have to show ID if they want to use a computer in an internet cafe."    

How not to get fooled by Ivory Coast scammers

This video shows how scammers use photos of (unknowing) girls to coax men into sending them money.  Posted by "xerial30".

Example of a blackmail email posted online by a web user

"Dear Mr Fabien,

My name is Mr Kouassi Roger, chief of the Ivorian internet police. We received an anti-perversity alert on our server about a document coming from you. It's a document of a conversation you had which includes vulgar content, when you were masturbating in front of a young girl of 16 onscreen. The (PICI) Internet Police of our country is charging you with the sexual abuse of this young 16-year-old. We're contacting you before it's too late. If not we'll be obliged to send the video to several [French] TV channels such as TV5, M6, FRANCE 24, TF1. If you refuse to accept any proposition we will take the case to the Supreme Court after which the public prosecutor of Ivory Coast Raymond Tchipou [sic, his surname is in  fact spelt Tchimou] will contact the French embassy and a warrant for your arrest will be issued in Ivory Coast, which works all over the world. Contact us on [telephone number]."

Posted as a comment here.

Comments

Avoiding Online Scams: Make

Avoiding Online Scams:

Make sure there is a clear-cut job description. If there are no details other than "make money at home" or "work fifteen minutes on the computer and earn full time cash", then move on. If you can't figure out what you would be doing, then it's a sure bet that this is not going to be a legitimate job.
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Step 2

Do not believe any ad that tells you there are only "limited spaces available, enter your information now". The ad is pressuring you to decide quickly for fear that the "job" might be filled by others. If you can't research the company and get more information, then do not waste your time. The limited spaces will never be filled because ANYONE can apply...and most everyone will be required to pay to get started.
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Step 3

Just because a site mentions on their online ad that a major company endorses their work-at-home program does NOT mean it's a fact. Look for links to the "major company" that show that there truly is an endorsement. Most of these fly-by-night companies count on the fact that you won't check any further into their claims of having company endorsements. There is something to be said for "too good to be true".
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Step 4

Look for contact information in the ad. There should be a phone number, address and an email account that is not a "freebie" email account such as Yahoo or Gmail. Most successful companies have their own domain. However, do your research--anyone can buy a domain name for less than $20.

"Everyone has a friend who's

"Everyone has a friend who's sent money to Western Africa"

lol No! no we dont !

yeh seems like a bit of an

yeh seems like a bit of an exxageration. but then if you look at the amount of people its happened to it probably is true, just theyre too embarrassed to tell you

I answered an ad from a guy on craigslist once and he was trying to rent me his flat , saying his wife was sick, couldn't come back from nigeria, so once i sent the first payment he'd send the keys. it was pretty funny when i realised but woouldn't be for the person who didn't. would have been interesting to have an account from someone who it actually happened to..

Romance Scams - Nigeria and Ghana

I was taken by not one, but two in Feb/March 2007. The first claimed he was an American from Florida who'd gone to Nigeria to do some engineering work. His wife and son were tragically killed in an automobile accident and he'd been robbed. He was in jeopardy of loosing his hotel and had no one to turn too (This is a common scenario). I was gullible. Over the course of a month he attempted to convince me to send him money via Western Union. I refused since 1) I don't have any money and 2) If he WERE a successful engineer he would have savings, investments and a company to bail him out. He asked me to cash two money orders for him, buy him a laptop with part of the money and mail it all to him and I could keep the left over amounts. He sent me two money orders via FedEx. When they didn't come from him directly but from someone in Tennessee I got even more suspicious. I called the bank in Boston. Even before I finished the sentence the woman told me they were forgeries. I proceeded to call the local police who have possession of both money orders.

The second made many claims that were eerily similar to the first and I became suspicious immediately. It ended up that he had a box of shirts sent to me without my permission that were purchased by credit card. He expected me to send them on to him in Nigeria. I refused to do so. He later admitted to be working within the scam industry, supposedly gave me his true name but said he wouldn't be able to leave the industry due to financial issues, lack of jobs there, etc. He told me the people who ordered the shirts would hurt him if he didn't get them. I told him that was his issue, not mine. He shouldn't steal from people.

I reported both people to the ICC, the clearing house in the USA for internet crimes and got involved in the Romance Scams sites online.

ANYONE can fall for these scams. These people make a lot of money doing it, are well trained and are able to morph from gender to gender rapidly depending on whom they're talking too. I ran into one in Stickam on video after all of this. It was funny when he read, word for word, one of the scam emails but tried to play like it wasn't a scam.

All I lost was time and trust. Some people loose much more. They'll deposit the money orders into their bank accounts, withdraw the money, spend it, send the merchandise and money on to Nigeria (or other country) and then their bank will notify them that they are fraudulent and they must repay the money. Some banks will also file theft charges when the person is unable to repay the money. Merchandise is often purchased with stolen credit cards, sent to a US resident and they then send on the merchandise since most companies won't send to that area due to the high volume of scams. The person is then also up for aiding and abetting with theft charges if the company decides to pursue it in court.

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