DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!

Thinking About Scams

by Fred Cederholm
“Let the buyer beware” (Caveat Emptor). Always verify ANY email request before responding with info, or cash. Be very, very wary.

I’ve been thinking about scams. Actually I’ve been thinking about the internet/ emails, phishing, money, banking, credit cards, lotteries, business deals, and a very dear friend in “trouble.” Last Friday morning when I went on-line to retrieve my first emails of the day, I got something I wasn’t expecting. I got an email from a lifelong friend (kindergarten thru high school) who now resides in California. She was in trouble and needed my help. My first reaction was of course I would be there for her... She needed me. Her request was not unreasonable given the circumstances presented to me and I could come up with the money. But... something just didn’t feel right about it. I needed more information... This one was different!

You see I receive between 50 and 100 emails every day from readers all over the world. My column is published locally and reprinted/ posted at web portals all over the globe. I am read by hundreds of thousands of readers every week. I am not kidding. Many correspond with me telling me they agree with me, or that my head was someplace else than on my shoulders. (Me??? NAW!!!) Anyway... I am used to getting emails that cover the gamut. I try to respond to every one. Some I know are scams and fraudulent and are nothing more than “phishing.” These seek personal information which is none of their “gosh/ golly/ gee whiz darn” business. I see them for what they are... an attempt to separate me from my money or some of my assets. Last Friday’s email was different...

These scams come in many forms and flavors. Many tell me that there is some problem with accessing a personal bank account, credit card, investment fund, or on-line store account. They need to clarify my account number or password. (Yeah, right! I only have one credit card, and all my money etc. are with local banks.) These I dismiss, don’t respond, and erase immediately. (I only wish I had enough money to have balances in Dubai, Kuwait, Switzerland, or the UK!) I have no active store credit cards--- certainly NOT with Harrod’s, Van Cleef and Arpels, Gump’s, or Tiffany’s. These I dismiss, don’t respond, and erase immediately. Last Friday’s email was different...

I also must be literally the luckiest person on the planet. (I know that I truly am because I survived last year’s heart infection ordeal...but that is a different thing.) However, when it comes to lotteries, gaming, 50/50’s, or drawings; I couldn’t win a left handed bed pan. Still... once a week I learn how I’ve “won” MILLIONS, in the Irish Sweepstakes, the UK Powerball, the French/ Swiss lotto, or the South African National Lottery. All they need is my Social Security Number and/ or my bank account number (and password) to wire me my winnings. Like I said, I must be the luckiest person on the planet because I knew I hadn’t even bought a ticket! These I dismiss, don’t respond, and erase immediately. Last Friday’s email was different...

The most common scams tell me how I’ve been left a fortune in cash (by some relative I never knew I had, or faithful reader of my weekly TH*NK*NGs). Or... they want me to represent them in a business venture and handle their American accounts for them. (Remember that I am a CPA.) All that is needed is my Social Security Number and/ or my bank account number (and password) to wire me the proceeds. These I dismiss, don’t respond, and erase immediately. Last Friday’s email was different...

Last Friday’s came from someone I knew personally who was in trouble. It came via the personal email account (which I knew was my friend’s from the properties “coding”) and it was signed off with the Bible verse/ quotation that was ALWAYS used by her. She told me she was attending a seminar in London, had lost her checkbook, credit cards, and her return ticket home had been stolen and cashed in. She was in dire need of $2,200 to get back to California. I almost freaked out. I did TH*NK it strange that she contacted me instead of her mother, brother, or sisters any of whom I knew would wire her the cash. She wrote that she was so embarrassed about getting into this mess and would repay me as soon as she got back to California. I knew she was good for it, but she had just had major surgery on her spine and I THOUGHT she was convalescing in a rehab center. Still... it was her email account and her normal sign off! Yet, the syntax and word order were like from someone whose first language was not English? I emailed back and asked how to send her the money. Last Friday’s email was different...

While I was waiting for a reply I contacted her cousin’s husband, and her best friend in DeKalb. They both knew she was not in the UK and was in a rehab facility in California. Mystery solved...or was it??? Then, I received an email routed from the UK telling me to send the cash via Western Union to a hotel in London. All that was needed was confirmation of the amount and the ten digit transmittal number from me. (YEAH... like THAT was going to happen.) “Let the buyer beware” (Caveat Emptor). Always verify ANY email request before responding with info, or cash. Be very, very wary. This one was indeed truly different.

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.


Copyright 2009 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.



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This story was published on July 26, 2010.