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Be prepared and prewarned

Scams and Scammers – Be Warned and Prepared

We’ve all heard of people being scammed – the news is full of it. Pension scams, banking scams and very often dating scams.

I consider myself to be intelligent and scam aware. But I have been scammed within my own dating organisation, and if I can be, I’m sure you can be too. Please read on so that you can be forewarned and protected from being scammed yourself.

Here’s what happened.

One of our elderly gentleman members and I had been in touch by email (and text) about his recent marriage. He’d sent us in his story and some lovely pictures of their wedding day.

Then about 3 weeks later, I received an email from him asking if I used Amazon and Amazon vouchers. I replied saying Yes, I did, and back came a request from him to help him send a £100 voucher gift to a very ill friend of his – dying from leukaemia I think it was.

As I write this, I feel I should easily have seen the scam at this point, but two things had happened already. Firstly, I’ve seen the email has come directly from him – the email address is his and it’s a very personal address – just like mine would be if it was Katharine. gray@gmail.com. His picture was next to the email address as well and I “knew” it was from him.

Secondly, he’s an elderly gentleman – one of my members – who is doing a generous gesture to a friend in need. I’d be heartless not to help him out surely? I am emotionally involved.

Thirdly I’m busy. Who isn’t? We all have very full inboxes with things requiring our attention. Had I had more time, then of course I’d have called this member for a chat about what he was doing (and then immediately found out from him that it was nothing to do with him and he’d been scammed). But I was busy, and I didn’t have ‘time’ to make this phone call. Sound familiar?

Now luckily for me, this request had come from a member – and not from a close family friend. As it had come from a member, I emailed him to say I’d be happy to help out, but the funds would need to be transferred into my personal account before I could buy the voucher, and would he be happy with this and if so I’d send him my bank details.

I was lucky with the reply I got which was simply the email address that the voucher was to go to and the message that I was to put on the voucher.

It was only then that I saw that the email address that the voucher was going to looked very odd, and the message for the so-called ill friend was a bit odd to. Thank fully there was no reply saying yes, he’d like my bank details, and finally the penny dropped that this was a scam, and that no funds would be coming to me. Rather the scammers hoped and expected me to buy the voucher and send it onto them. Needless to say there would have never been any recompense and the voucher would undoubtedly have been cashed.

What has happened is that our members personal email address had been hacked – and I guess everyone in his contact list had received the same email. I imagine if the scammers were lucky some of his kind friends may have bought the voucher and been defrauded out of their money.

It was a very lucky escape for me, but I could well have been had.

Scammers are clever people. Some incredibly so. Far cleverer than you and I generally.

Please don’t be so proud that you think you’re savvy enough not to get scammed. Stories abound which prove that even the cleverest, most savvy people get scammed.

Now I don’t write this to scare you. Don’t be scared. Just be careful. And I want you to be careful in friends1st too. Clearly this member did not scam me. But his personal email account did get hacked. Any of your friends or family or trusted email contacts could be hacked too.

The bottom line is however well you know someone, however sad their story is, however sympathetic you are to their ‘cause’, never ever, ever ‘give’ money to someone without thorough investigation into what they are doing. And I’d go so far as to say if it’s someone you’ve met on a dating site – however safe this site is – like friends1st aims to be – just never ever, ever give them money. Never. Until there’s a ring on your finger and you are married to them (and even them be suspicious if the requests for fund began before you got married!)

If you think that’s too harsh, then agree to never give anyone any money without checking it out with a friend or family member first.  They’ll have the objectivity that you simply don’t have. In fact, as soon as I began to tell my colleague the story of what had happened, she immediately saw it was a scam. I hadn’t been able to see that because I had become subjectively involved. If you’re ever worried, please ring us – because we can also give you that objective view. We won’t judge you – we’re here to protect you.

If it can happen to me – and I had a lucky escape – then it can happen to you to. £100 is not a lot of money – but it’s money I don’t have spare or to waste. It could have been a much more elaborate scam to get tens of thousands out of me. Yes, that happens regularly too sadly. It’s not about the amount – it about the fraud and deception – and it’s hard to protect yourself from this – as I found out. But with a trusted friend on your side who you can discuss your financial decisions with (and we can be that trusted friend if you’re ever not sure about a request) you stand a much greater chance of staying protected rather than scammed.