Protect yourself when using money transfers

2010-04-20 00:00

A SOPHISTICATED scam is doing the rounds in cyberspace, and e-mail users should be vigilant.

A University of KwaZulu-Natal employee nearly fell victim to a case of identity theft that can take advantage of anyone’s e-mail account.

Nigerian-born UKZN employee Chinedu Thomas blew the whistle when con artists hacked into his Yahoo e-mail account.

They modified his password to deny him access to his own account, which was then used to impersonate him to solicit money from everyone whose e-mail address was stored in his address book.

The con-artists sent out bulk e-mails with his signature in which they alleged that he was stranded in London and could not pay for his hotel bill or airfare to return home.

The e-mails alleged that he desperately needed £1 000.

To limit the correspondence to e-mails, they alleged that Thomas had lost his cellphone.

Thomas told The Witness that the loan was to be forwarded via Money­Gram or Western Union, which do not use bank accounts and operate in a similar fashion to Shoprite’s money market.

Had any of Thomas’s contacts felt obliged to grant the loan, they would have deposited the money in his name and e-mailed a secret code to his address, which was under the fraudsters’ control.

Thomas warned e-mail users to keep their address books in two different places and to sign out after using their e-mail, particularly at Internet cafés.

Thomas said he has been in touch with Interpol to track down the perpetrators. Attempts to obtain comment from Interpol were unsuccessful. — Witness Reporter.

Western Union, one of the major players in the international money transfer market, has the following advice to protect against scams:

• Never send money to a stranger using a money transfer service.

• Beware of deals that seem too good to be true.

• Don’t use money transfer services to pay for things like online auction purchases.

• Never send money to pay for taxes or fees on foreign lottery winnings.

• Never send a money transfer, in the name of a friend or relative, with the intention of changing the name to someone you have not met personally.

• Never send a money transfer, in the name of a friend or relative, to delay payment of the transaction to someone you have not met personally.

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