by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW
“Dearest one, God has sent me to you and I need your assistance. I have 3 million dollars left to me by my father who was poisoned and I need to get it out of my country. I am so very sad to lose my father, but he wanted to make sure I use this money and I am willing to give you 15% if you help me.”
Does this sound real to you? It must to a great many people because scammers have been using emails like this for years to steal money from lonely people who think that because they got an email from a stranger then God must have sent them.
“This is the IRS, and you have not paid $25,000 in taxes. If you do not send the money immediately, we will arrest you. Or, “The FBI has evidence that you have been using your computer to buy child pornography or launder money. You must respond to us immediately or you will be arrested.” Better yet, “The Internet fraud unit of Interpol has been monitoring your Internet transactions and we know you have been dealing with the wrong people. The United Nations has provided us with funds to compensate people who have been scammed.”
Does this sound real to you? Or maybe these do…”We have a package for you but it has been returned to LaGuardia, please contact us.” “We have your funds and we need to hear from you in order to release them.”
These are all examples of the types of emails I have personally received at my work address. My work email is vulnerable to receiving these types of emails because it is readily visible on the Internet. But I seldom get anything like this at home. Why? Two reasons: 1) my Internet service provider does a good job of blocking spam; and 2) I never respond to people I do not know.
As I discussed in my column last month, people use all types of tricks to get your personal information and this also applies to how people get your personal email. If you reply to these types of emails, you will be acknowledging that this is a good address and you will now get more and more of these emails designed to suck you in and steal your money.
Like a broken record, I am repeating to you that the phone is not your friend and do not talk to strangers on the phone. That applies to responding to emails from people you do not know. DELETE them immediately.
Points to remember: 1) no one in a foreign country is going to find you via the Internet and share millions of dollars with you; 2) you do not pay money to win money; 3) if you have sent money to a scammer, there is no government agency, domestic or international, that is going to return any money back to you; 4) no government agency is going to contact you via the Internet or the telephone and threaten you with arrest; and 5) NEVER click on any links someone sends you in an email, even if you think it is from a friend.
The examples and the stories are endless. After each column is published, I hear from people who share their stories. I use these over and over when I speak to groups. I appreciate you calling. But folks, the scammers are relentless and they are constant. Be vigilant, do not answer your phone, do not correspond with strangers via email, and never wire money to anyone. Call first before becoming a victim, 713-341-6184.