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Nobody likes getting scammed, but here we are in a world where almost every little detail must be checked, double checked, and many more times checked to ensure that we, either as freelancers or hobbyists or anywhere in between, are not being taken advantage of. From research and personal experience, I decided to jot down some of the things that I found disturbingly and annoyingly impressive from the advancement of these scammers to hopefully keep others from falling into their traps.
1) Duplicate Websites
It's not hard to make a website nowadays, especially with many sites allowing templates to start us out. Something to watch out for is duplicate websites, websites meant to trick you into thinking that we are on the real site. Let's take a look at an example:
The fake accounts will most likely claim that since we're dealing with international funds, then we must use a specific page dedicated to that department. Don't fall for it.
2) Fake "Professional" Websites
Now we're really getting more into the investigation side of things. If the page looks extremely professional, then this can be used to misguide us into a blind trust. Take for instance a website made to look like it represents Sun Trust Bank.
The number that called me was using the +254 712 848 938 number, which is listed on this site. At first, or multiple glances, it would seem legit. Then I noticed that the other pages had the "Green Secure Lock" on their URL, but not on the homepage. Click through the pages and the tabs, and everything looks professionally done, as if for the bank itself. Now click on any of the links. What happened? Either you're brought back to the top of the page, or you're taken back to the homepage. Soon, I noticed something else strange. When I scrolled down to any of the social media links, they ALL linked back to the main page. As many social media platforms are out there, a professional business is most likely to have at least one account linked. Using a site called ScamFoo, I also found (at the time of this posting) that the page was only four months old. Not to say that all young pages are scam related, but that it should enforce careful consideration.
Note: ScamFoo has additional tips for identifying questionable sites. Please check them out if you are having concerns.
3) Impersonating Real People
Not every scam will be about a prince searching for an heir to donate millions of dollars to. Many scammers will take on the names of CEO members, bank representatives, and can take on the identity of either you or me. If you find yourself being contacted by a bank or an individual and is questioning if the email is legit, once again, we may have to do some investigation. Do they have a safe website and social media pages? How new are they? Do they have followers and reviews? Are the reviews all "too good to be true"? How can they be contacted? Does the contact match up with other "reliable" sources? Does the "business" number sound more like a "personal" number if called (lack of operators, departments, technical support)? The list of questions goes on and it still may take forever to discover the truth. If anything, if they ask for you to send money to pay for a banking account or to pay to cover an "Administrative Code" or "C.O.T/COT Code" (Cost of Transfer) or whatever other types of code to officially transfer international funds, don't do it. That's a red flag to it being a scam.
4) Fake Checks
I will finish off with this one. If you are doing freelance/contract work, be wary of checks that come in the mail if you are not familiar with the sender or the name on the check. It's typical nowadays to do business strictly virtually, but it also gives scammers an upper advantage to manipulate their victims. If a check does come in the mail that you are not sure about, ask your bank to check its information first. What will happen is that if you deposit the fake check, it will show in your account as deposited funds. A few days later, the check will bounce and the funds will be retracted. Now that the funds have been deposited into your account, any investigation will be tracked back to you, criminalizing your actions as fraud. Protect yourself.
Well, this post could go on forever talking about scammers and never be completed because they are always coming up with new tricks. If anything, ask trusted friends and family to help and report scams whenever possible. It doesn't stop the issue if we just ignore them, but if we can expose even a small percentage of them, then maybe we can protect a larger amount of innocent people along the way.