The Scams

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If you are buying or selling a product online be aware of this scam

Fake Escrow Company Scam
Recently many scam artists have begun tricking Net users into wiring thousands of dollars to fraudulent bank accounts. The criminals set up fake escrow companies. Often they set up web sites to imitate legitimate escrow services; to an untrained eye, it can be impossible to tell the difference. Do not send money to an escrow account set up by the seller. An escrow company can be helpful, but use a service you know, or recommended by your bank. Never send money to an unknown person or company!
The scam can work both ways by either pointing a buyer to a fake escrow company or tricking a seller into shipping items that haven't been paid for. The fake company sends an e-mail to the seller indicating the money was received., and have long lists of known escrow fraud sites on their Web sites. lists screen shots of common escrow scams.

If you are selling an item you will almost certainly get e-mail attempting this scam!

Fake Shipping Agent or Money Order Scam
If you are selling an item (especially a motorcycle, automobile, or other high dollar item) you will get e-mail attempting this scam.  The scammer will attempt to purchase your bike with a money order. They will want you to take a money order for an amount larger than the purchase price for the bike.  This scam works well because you are always thinking "how is he going to get the bike without paying for it", but the scammer isn't even after the bike!  He is after your money! This scam is designed to get you to cash a counterfeit money order or cashiers check..

This is a typical scenario of how the scam works:

You have a bike for sale. You are asking $12000.

The scammer e-mails you with an offer to buy the bike.  He may ask for photos of ask about the condition of the bike.  He offer you a $11000. (A little fake haggling to make it sound good)

You reply with the information he requested and agree to sell for $11000.

He says he will purchase the bike. He asks if a money order is ok.

You agree to accept the money order. 

He will give you some excuse for having wanting to send a money order for a larger amount. The most common excuse is that he has a friend who lives in the USA and owes him $15000. And because he can't easily cash the money order in his country he would like you to cash it and send the remainder to him or his "shipping agent" via Western Union. 

This sounds good to you. You are thinking, "get a money order, cash it, and send the remainder. Wow, he must trust you with the a lot of money".  You agree to his offer. 

He wants your phone number and address. He wants to call you to verify the information. 

You provide a phone number and address.

He calls you using a system designed for those who are deaf. You speak only to the operator and she relays the info. (They almost always use this type of service). On the call you can verify the address and terms etc.

The deal is all but done. You wait for a money order. It arrives FedEx overnight.  

You also receive an e-mail reminder to get to the bank and cash it. The e-mail also gives you the address of Western Union locations near you. 

 You deposit $11000 from the money order in your account. You get $4000 to send to the shipper.  You go to Western Union and send the money.  You send $3995 and give Western Union $5.00 in fees. You e-mail the code to the "shipper". 

With everything complete you wait for the shipping agent to come by and pick up the bike.  A week will pass, maybe two weeks. 

Soon you get a letter from your bank. They have charged your account $15000 plus $20 service fee because the money order was returned to them unpaid and marked counterfeit. You check with Western Union. The money was picked up and their is no way to recover it.

The final tally: The bank   
Western Union
The Scammer
+ $20.00
+ $5.00
+ $3995.00
- $4020.00

If you have an e-mail address you may get someone attempting this one

Nigerian "419" Scams

These are called Nigerian 419 scams after the law #419 that makes it illegal in Nigeria. Most of the scams mentioned on this page originate in Nigeria. Even though it is illegal the law is rarely enforced.  

There are two major versions of these scams. The first asks you help to transfer millions of dollars out of some country. The second tells you that you have won some huge amount of money in a lottery. In both cases you are told to that you must keep the information absolutely continental. 

There will be a short time of transferring documents by mail or fax machine. You will probably even get photocopies of the ID for the person you are working with and they will also want you to a copy of your ID.  If they claim you have won a lottery you may even be told to go to a website to claim your winnings. Don't be fooled by websites. A website doesn't mean a company is legitimate. The website is just as fake as the lottery winnings.

Once you agree to help the transfer or to collect your lottery winnings you will be told about certain expenses. You pay these expenses only to be faced with more expenses. These expenses will continue and even get larger as long as you keep paying. The more you pay the more you are reluctant to quit because you need to recover your money. You are constantly guaranteed the next expense will be the last.  In some cases people have sent so much money that they refuse to send more. Instead they agree to travel to another country to complete the remaining transactions in person rather than continue to keep sending it. Traveling to meet the person is the worst mistake a person cam make. The lucky ones only get robbed. The unlucky ones get murdered.

There is a second version of this scam where they simply want to transfer the funds to your account. The will ask you for your bank account number and other information. In effect they trick you into providing personal information that can be used to seal the money from your account, get credit in your name, and more. 

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Click here for another website that has a lot of useful information on scams.