By Heather Killen
Everything old is new again in the worlds of fashion and fraud.
Just as most anyone with a telephone has already won at least one cruise, anyone with an email account or a fax machine has probably heard from someone like Mrs. Perveen Al. Mahoudi.
This “terminally ill widow,” like so many unfortunates who find themselves in dire straits, has a large sum of money she wants to invest in Canada and needs private banking information in order to safely deposit this sum.
While it’s only natural to want to help another human being, never give out personal information to strangers. In fact responding in any way to these emails, letters, or phone calls could be dangerous, according to Sharon Elliott, RCMP Senior Safety Program coordinator.
“These people are very manipulative and know how to play on people’s emotions,” she said. “Even if they don’t get the banking information, they may pick up other details and open up another type of scam.”
The scammers always try to use people’s emotions against them, whether it’s sympathy or greed, when people are reacting with their emotions they aren’t thinking clearly.
Unlike the familiar email approach, several people in Middleton received the message from “Mrs. Mahoudi” as a personal letter through the mail last week. While the letter may seem more legitimate coming through the mail, it’s one of several old scams taking a fresh approach.
“Old scams never die, they always come back,” says Elliott. “T’is the season.”
She added that she expects other classics such as the ever-popular call of the cruise ship; or the bright promises to reduce and consolidate debts will also be making comebacks this season.
Time of Year
“This time of the year people are thinking about getting away on a cruise, or maybe they’ve overspent during the holidays,” she said. “Given the thousands of people they approach, it’s the law of chance they will find at least one person to respond.”
Some of the popular scams are really two-stage set-ups. In the first stage a person’s email account is hacked. During the second phase, emails are sent to that person’s friends and family.
These emails pretend to be from the person named on the account and ask for help. They tell friends and family that while away, they have gotten into some trouble. It could be an illness, or just an unfortunate accident, but money is urgently needed.
It’s always wise to hold-off and verify this information, she said.
While many scams target individuals by name, others are just an innocent click away on the Internet. Eliott says computer trouble can sometimes lead to a computer scam.
A person went online looking for help to fix his computer and found a company to help. The company seemed to be legitimate, but it was only after he gave away access to his personal information did he realize he was duped.
“The threats are always out there, some are direct while others are just waiting on the Internet,” she said. “Always double-check before responding with personal information. If in doubt, we are only a phone-call away and this help is free.”
For more information on possible computer scams contact the local office of the RCMP.