Summit Up: Where we are about to be rolling in the dough
Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column that’s gonna be freaking rich! So we come in to work yesterday morning, thinking it’s just going to be another normal day. We’re doin’ our usual morning journalist stuff, double checking facts, scanning headlines, wrapping every item on the copy editor’s desk in saran wrap, when we finally get around to checking our e-mail. Well right there in our inbox is this message from some guy named Johaness Scheepers who wants to send us 7,878,678 “Great British pounds!” Scheepers (who incidentally is a plastic surgeon, according to his very official looking signature on the e-mail) says one of his patients, an American born Indian widow, asked him from her deathbed to find some good Samaritan to take her millions and use them to “help the less privilege in the World” And he picked us! All we have to do is write back and tell him our full name, address, fax and phone numbers, age, occupation, social security and bank account numbers and include a signed blank check! Easiest 7.8 million pounds we ever made.
A warning for all you millions of Summit Up readers out there: If you ever get an e-mail like this, it is probably a scam. You shouldn’t reply to messages that seem suspicious and, of course, it’s never a good idea to send money or personal information to people you don’t know.
Millions of Summit Up readers: Duh.
Luckily, we discovered (translation: Our IT guy who was reading over our shoulder informed us) that there was a chance this offer could be a scam just in the nick of time. We almost didn’t believe it at first. What kind of dumb con artist would try to scam a journalist? We don’t have any money. The scam artist that did manage to talk his or her way into our wallets would make off with exactly $4.11 and a Blockbuster card. Their time would be much better spent thinking up trickier scams to be used on advertising executives, CFOs and Oprah.
Advertising executives, CFOs and Oprah: Hey!
Anyway, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to us. Just last week we got an e-mail from someone we didn’t know telling us we won a contest we didn’t enter. It said all we had to do to claim our prize of $43.6 million was mail a $10,000 cashier’s check to Nigeria. Our IT guy didn’t need to save us that time. We just wrote back informing the contest people that we wouldn’t even know what $10,000 looked like if we saw it, which we never have. But the point is, these scammers are out there, and while it’s hard to imagine anyone has ever fallen for the old wire-10-grand-to-Nigeria ploy, they are getting craftier. And their tricks must work from time to time because otherwise they’d probably stop scamming and find other ways to make money. Like getting jobs. Actually, in 2009 more than $13.6 million was reported lost to Internet crime in Colorado alone, according to the FBI’s Internet crime complaint center.
Online scams are constantly evolving and new ones are launched all the time. We’ve seen everything from fraudulent e-mails that play to our concern for family and friends (scammers hack into e-mail accounts and send messages as the account’s owner asking loved ones to wire money) to investment scams that seem almost legit (scammers claiming to have high-brow financial connections promote vague investments promising a excellent return rates).
Your best bet is to be vigilant online and careful of your personal information. Don’t play foreign lotteries and read through online bills and statements closely. For more tips on how to protect your money, your identity and your kids online check out http://www.onguardonline.gov, an Federal Trade Commission project. And do everyone a favor and report scams to the FTC by filing complaints at ftc.gov and forwarding suspicious e-mails and spam to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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