Nearly scammed, fortunately not stupid

2015-09-10 06:00

TWO weeks ago I received an email from a reader expressing his gratitude after the relaunch of the Afrikaans page. To protect his identity, let’s just call him Dawie from Manaba.

After replying and thanking him, I carried on with what I was doing. That was until last Friday when out of the blue I received a frantic email from Dawie, telling me he was stuck overseas in Cyprus. He said he had lost his passport, money and bank cards and was requesting that I transfer 1000 euros to him, promising to repay me as soon as he arrived home.

Obviously this was a scam. I went to the email Dawie had sent me thanking me for the Afrikaans page and the first thing that I noticed was that his email was sent from a gmail account while the latest one came from Yahoo. Everything else in the email address was identical and an untrained eye could easily have missed that.

Luckily I still had his phone number so I decided to call him let him know that his identity had been stolen. He was already aware of this and sounded very troubled.

Apparently online scammers had hacked into his mailbox and accessed his contacts. This is a scary thought when you imagine what else they did while remotely browsing through his computer.

There are many ways online scammers gain access to your computer or phone, but the most common is when they send you a link that you would click and open, giving them access to do as they please.

This link could be in an email saying, “you have won $500 000 in the Microsoft lucky draw. Click here to claim your prize.”

You’ll be amazed how many people fall for this.

After speaking to Dawie and giving him a few suggestions of what he should do, I decided to have some fun with this other “Dawie” from Cyprus.

I’m not suggesting that readers should try this at home, but I replied and told “Dawie” how sorry I was of the predicament he was in. After asking how I should send the money, I was promptly forwarded money-transfer details and they were indeed from Cyprus.

I told “Dawie” to close his eyes, sing Bohemian Rapsody while spinning anti-clockwise and the money will appear in his pocket. The reply came less than a minute later and it was in a language I could not understand.

I copied and pasted it on Google and I realised “Dawie” was swearing to me in Igbo, the language spoken in Nigeria.

Although there is no 100% reliable protection from online scammers, taking a few precautions will ensure you don’t become easy prey. The number one rule when it comes to using your email is - don’t open any links unless you are totally sure of their origin.

Also, there is nothing called “free money”. Never open any email that says you have won a competition you never entered or a relative in Belgium has died and left you a billion dollars. Since you know very well you don’t have any relatives in Belgium, you have no business entertaining scammers trying to pull wool over your eyes.

Enabling the viewing pane on your inbox so you can view emails without having to click and open them will save you a lot of sleepless nights.

My only hope is that no one from Dawie’s contacts fell prey to this scam

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