While critical in providing an instant window of communication to the world, a downside to having an email account is the veritable flood of spam emails you receive which promise you the world and delivering worse than nothing.
Thankfully as people begin to understand more about the world of online communication these scams seem to be on the wane.
Yet there is one such scam which is unfortunately gaining some traction here and abroad. Scammers are forgoing the typical notification email and are sending letters to people they hope to con. These letters are ‘officially’ notarised and also include an international stamp and are sent directly to people’s home addresses.
The ‘Euromilliones’ sting is just one example. The scammers send people letters in the mail claiming that it is their ‘final notice’ to collect their ‘winnings’. In this instance, the sum ranges anywhere between $700,000 and $950,000.
You can see a scan of the letter here.
While the scammers have made a decent attempt to make the letter look authentic, on closer inspection it is clear that this is a photo-shopped effort which no reputable lottery would send.
The ‘Euromilliones’ scam works in a number of ways. People who receive the letter, rapturous at receiving money which by all logical reasoning has fallen out of the sky from half-way across the world, call the ‘president’ of the ‘lottery association.’
When the call is made, the scammers will exploit susceptible people in two main ways:
1. They ask for a nominal fee, generally between $800 and $1000, as a ‘transfer fee’ to allow for such a large transaction to go between the bank accounts (as people have just ‘won’ $700,000, some don’t care). When asked if they can take the fee from the winnings, they respond that the money is insured in the person’s name, and there is ‘taxation red tape’ which does not allow them to touch it unless it has been transferred into their account.
2. They also sometimes ask for a larger amount of money, around $1,500 – $2,000, to pay for a return airfare to deliver the giant cheque in person, as well as expenses.
You would think that this must be an exercise in futility for the scammers. However, with the wasted expense of sending international stamps to a large number of people who will be aware of the scam, it must still be a profitable operation.
To avoid being swindled by this entrepreneurial gang of ne’er do wells, consider the following:
• Always look for small spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. This can be evidence of poor translation.
• Never, ever pay any attention to anything which doesn’t have your full name and address. If a letter like this one does in fact have a surprising amount of your personal details, then take your address and other personal details off social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
• Never open emails which do not reference something you are expecting, or have a blank subject line (or one titled ‘hi’). It also goes without saying that if you get an email claiming that you have won a large amount of money, the best place for it is the online recycle bin.
• If it sounds too good to be true (for example you have won a lottery you have never even heard of in Bora Bora) it most probably is.