Monday, June 29, 2009

You’ve won the lottery!

So far this year, LPD has investigated at least 67 Internet frauds. There may be a few more buried in our records with a different location code—I just didn’t have time to check there. Here’s a recap of a few of the successful cons that have relieved Lincoln residents of their cash this year. The demographics on the victims will be a little different than you might imagine.


85 year-old women was contacted by a man claiming to be in Ghana. He needed her help in collecting $23.5 million dollars on deposit here in the States. In return for her wiring him $3,655, she would receive one third of his fortune.


A 37 year-old man lost $3,505 after after responding to a job offer he found on craigslist. The person offering the job mailed him a bogus check, with instructions to cash the check then wire the bulk of the cash to a non-existent “travel agent” in the Philippines, who would be making arrangements.


A 20 year-old man was separated from $2,850 that he wired to the seller of a car on eBay. The car never arrived. The seller does not exist. The eBay listing was spoofed.


An 18 and 19 year-old couple found some concert tickets on craigslist, and contacted the seller by phone. The seller said she was in Laurel, NE, and would mail the tickets if the victim would wire her the $250. No tickies. Turns out the phone number the victim called (no longer in service) is in Santa Rosa, CA.


A 25 year-old man saw a good price on a 2006 Ford Expedition posted on craigslist and offered by a seller named Sarah in Quebec. “Send a moneygram for $4,800 to my eBay agent, David Wright.” No Expedition, no eBay agent, no Sarah, no David Wright, no more $4,800.


An 80 year-old women received a phone call from a male who called her “grandma.” He explained that while job hunting in Atlanta, he had been involved in a traffic crash, and needed to borrow $5,400 to pay his medical and vehicle expenses. She wired that amount to him in Atlanta, with the expectation that he would repay her after he received his insurance settlement. It wasn’t her grandson.


A 26 year-old man sent a $2,200 moneygram to Damian (was that a clue?) in San Diego for a motorcycle advertised on ebay. You know the rest.


The 36 year-old victim advertised her Blackberry on craigslist. She received an offer to buy from “Terry” who wanted her to ship the Blackberry to his daughter in Nigeria, and he would pay for the device and shipping through PayPal. She subsequently received an email from PayPal confirming a $160 transfer to her account, so she shipped the Blackberry off. The PayPal email was a fake.


A 24 year-old victim purchased a spyware program from a website for $49.95. The program turned out to be malware that has seriously fouled her computer. The company doesn’t exist, and the IP address resolves to the Netherlands.


The 19 year-old victim responded to a craigslist ad for a 2001 Honda motorcycle. The seller was in the United Kingdom, but said the motorcycle was at a business in Denver. The seller had the buyer wire $2,850 to a third party in London. Obviously, no Honda.


A 30 year old man was informed via email that if he would only wire the sender $300, the victim would in turn receive $50,000 for his trouble. Walmart’s fee for the $300 wire was an added $22.92.


A 27 year-old victim won the eBay auction of a 2004 GMC Envoy that was supposedly in Rock Rapids, Iowa. Curiously, she was required to wire $3,000 to London in order to consummate the transaction. No vehicle exists, and the seller has mysteriously disappeared from eBay and from the email address he employed.


A 27 year-old Lincoln woman won the Nigerian Lottery! She was notified of her good fortune via email on her Blackberry. All she needed to do to claim her prize was to send four separate wires from two separate Moneygram locations to Mr. Sunday Olasunkanmi in Sagamu, Nigeria. The total take was $2,635.

Let’s review:

  1. You haven’t won any lotteries for which you bought no tickets. If you actually did win a lottery, they wouldn’t be contacting you by email, and you wouldn’t be required to send money to claim your prize.
  2. You never pay for anything in advance, upon the expectation that it will actually be delivered, unless you can independently confirm its existence and deliverability--except a college education, in which case you have no other choice.
  3. No legitimate buyer sends you a check for more than the purchase price and asks you to wire the excess to them, much less to a third party in another country.
  4. Anyone can cut and paste the logo from PayPal or eBay and make that email you receive look legitimate, if you don’t have your…detector activated.

Fortunately, in several of the 67 cases, victims sensed something wasn’t right, and didn’t fall for the scam. There were some close calls, though. Caveat emptor.


Steve said...

Some of these schemes seem so ridiculous it's hard to believe anyone actually fell for them. Others maybe should have set off some alarms, but a trusting person could easily fall victim to them. Even when you do all the right things, you can get scammed.

Years ago, I hired a man to remodel and roof my garage. We checked the BBB, contacted people for whom he had done jobs previously, and even inspected his workmanship. One of the previous customers was just down the street from us a couple of houses, and they had nothing but good to say about him.

We paid him half of the bid up front, about $3500. I didn't especially like doing that, but I had done similar work for people as a side job, and I knew how tough it was to come up with the cash for materials to even start a job like this.

He brought out about $50 worth of lumber and piled it next to the drive and never showed up again. We got a judgement against him for $7,000, but by that time, he was in prison for several other scams he had previously commited. He also filed for bankruptcy which negated his obligation to pay our judgement against him.

Trevor Brass said...

Young Internet users most likely have more trust in impersonal and long-distance communications, thus their increased propensity to such fraud. I am still surprised that such an "informed" constituency is consistently falling victim to fraud that has been in the news for quite some time. Surely, any Internet user with one head and a blood pressure of 120/80 has heard of the Nigerian 419 advance-fee fraud?

JIM J said...

I have to comment about the LPS driver that was arrested this weekend for touching a student.
WHY would anyone touch a student? Even coaches these days do not do that. Except for the state BB contest and thats a hug. Also a NO NO for divers.
LPS is falling short on training the drivers. When I first started driving my supervisor told me it is ok to say good morning and have a great day. NEVER hug, pat, tap, touch a student. DUH!
ONLY the best for LPS.

Anonymous said...

The Ebay and Craigslist ripoffs are even more ridiculous, because Ebay strongly warns buyers not to wire money, and not to use anything but PayPal, in order to avoid being ripped off. However, some idiots will still wire the money, because it's just too good of a deal, almost...unbelievably good.

Craigslist strongly warns not to buy from distant sellers sight unseen. However, when you advertise an allegedly perfect, like new, low-miles vehicle up for sale - for only 20% of its book value (what a deal! can't pass that up, woohoo!), common sense goes right out the window. Especially when the photographs are unusually good, due to the fact they've been ripped off from a car dealer's ebay listing or something like that.

If you tell them you live in their city and want to inspect the car in person, it will suddenly have "just sold".

Tom Casady said...


I just sold my mother-in-law's car on craigslist last week. It was an interesting experience. I knew it was a difficult-to-believe post (it was a 1982 model with less than 27,000 original miles and all the paperwork). I received a flurry of the predictable suspicious offers.

The ultimate buyer was from Omaha. He and I exchanged several mutually-suspicious emails, and eventually he agreed to come see it in person. Turned out to be a great transaction for all of us--I got it sold, he found a peach, and my mother-in-law was pleased her little convertible that had been a 50th birthday present went to someone who really had an appreciation for the genre. The dance we did leading up to the transaction, though, was something to behold! He had no idea who I was, prior to the sale.

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