We have all waited for our Prince charming some or the other time in our life. I didn’t have to wait for it long. No sooner had I opened an email account, I got an email from a Nigerian Prince. Whats more he was offering me money. Large sums of it. In dollars no less. And he was so polite! He was slightly bad at English and grammar but hey you can’t have it all! However, Prince is a bit much for me. I’d prefer a commoner to be more honest. My insecurities told me so. So I just let it go.
A few days later, Coca Cola told me I won some prize for a lottery that I never purchased. This time in GBP. The next time it was Hero Honda and oh my God the emails just kept pouring in. They all told me how they found me in some directory and how they found me trust worthy and how my credit score just shines! I was wondering why I don’t I meet these people in real life. I should have shown some of these emails to my friends! Once I bought a phone I got text messages with similar prize money. Then when I went online for searching something and even these websites started offering me money. Lucky me!
But am sure I ain’t the only lucky person. Anybody who hasn’t been living under a rock has been this lucky sometime or the other. This is what is called a Nigerian scam or a 419 scam based on the International code for Nigeria. Most of these emails originate from Nigeria. About 60% of them, hence the name. This is THE MOST common scams around. Apart from being the most common, the variations of this scam are the oldest as well.
The older form of this scam called ‘Spanish prisoner scam’ is from the 18th century. Individuals are contacted and offered a part of somebody’s fortune in exchange for a bribe money you pay to get the person out of the prison. The newer one offers you a prize money or it says someone wants to transfer a huge sum of money and needs an ally. In exchange you get to keep a percentage of it. They always have a story of why they need your assistance. Sometimes they are also you a job. This is used to get money from you and also for identity theft. Just Google for Nigerian scam and you’ll find a wealth of information.
You might have thought who’d fall for such a scam but as per one study, in 2013, an estimated $12.7 billion was lost to these scams worldwide. That means somebody is still falling for this trick even almost a century later. The reason is pretty simple. Lure of easy money and also the fact that this is a big industry in some poorer countries and done on a large scale as a full time job with proper training. They keep updating themselves and come up with newer stories and tricks every once in a while.
Now to the important part what to do when you are at the receiving end of such an email/text/call/fax/ad.
Check any email that you get for sender. Most of these originate from the web based emails. and have bad English, grammar or badly made logos. All reputed companies have their own domain and also use the email ids of their own domain. The scammers have off late gotten sophisticated and use legit sounding names and better logos but with a slight effort you can find out the real sender.
In case of doubt, you can Google search and check the senders IP. Check if it is in the spam database.
Don’t respond! Just delete it and mark it as spam. Again don’t click on the mark spam and unsubscribe. You do not even to confirm that such an email id exists and being used.
Do NOT part with any personal details whatsoever. Least of all your bank account details.
If at all, you have given any money or details and are being pursued for more money, inform the police and get out of the situation. The ‘sunk cost fallacy’ makes you act otherwise, counter to your own best interests and you keep giving more money. Do yourself a favor and stop!
And lastly the usual culprit, if something is too good to be true, remember, it most certainly is! Do not trust random emails/random stroke of luck. Use your judgement. Or rather don’t let your judgement get clouded!
This is part of my very own ‘Jaago Grahak Jaago’ series. The previous post in the series is ”Striking gold“. More coming later. Hope you guys like them. Do leave your thoughts in the comments section below. And have a great day!