Profile of an international email scam

Have you ever wondered how people fall for international scammers?

Every day thousands of emails are sent and received offering unrealistic opportunities for riches. Like most people, I am in the habit of deleting them as quickly as possible.

But recently I received a very convincing looking email and decided to observe how the fraud was played.

What I learned was that an uneducated or unsophisticated player could very easily be duped by the process that unfolded.

I was contacted by an individual who offered me a chance to be a party to a deal that involved buying rare earth elements from China and selling them to his firm. He claimed he was previously the purchasing manager at the firm before he was promoted. He claimed this gave him good access to the purchasing department.

I was told the company name and directed to a website that looked very genuine at first glance. It certainly had many pages to it and a sophisticated product set.

However, careful investigation showed it was a clone of a genuine website. The latter has online shopping and video clips that work. The former had no online shopping and many broken links. It is amazing just how many of the pages appeared to be copied, including PDF documents with logos that had been replaced.

So trivial web-based investigation would show you what was seemingly a genuine company to do business with.

The person who made me the offer was very quick to have a non-disclosure agreement signed-off to ensure this deal was not leaked. I was sent documents, including a copy of a university degree and a driver’s license to show me that my contact was genuine.

As I engaged with them, the phone calls began, allegedly from Toronto in Canada, to convince me this was a great deal and I was the right guy for the job.

This went on for several weeks with the promise that they would fund the whole exercise. They gently pressed me for more and more personal information and set up an order from the business for $14 million dollars. It’s the biggest order I ever received in business – but then I was supposed to order the products from China for $5 million. Of course this is where the rubber hits the road.

I was not about to place a genuine order exposing me to a liability I could not cover. My contact was fine with that and offered to transfer the funds – they just wanted a bank account to deposit funds into. Of course they already have a signature on the NDA so then they have a bank account and a signature for it.

I offered to set up a deal with a Forex account for a one-way deal and that was when the gloves came off. Pressure was applied and the game of cat and mouse came to an end at the point where they were not going to get access to my funds.

The communications were all very well handled on their part, always courteous always at a convenient time. They were always patient and ready to explain everything three times over. Always too good to be true. They never asked me to pay for anything.

The message here is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. These scammers are sophisticated in use of web technology, cheap international telephony and emails that are well written with reasons that make sense. They have polished their pitch and their methods to gain ways to scam money from unsuspecting victims who are motivated by unrealistic gains.

David Markus is the founder of Combo– the IT services company that is known for business IT that makes sense. How can we help?


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