Social Issues

Fraud/Scam Awareness & Prevention

Definitions of fraud & scam

Fraud is defined as wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in a financial or personal gain.

Scamming is any dishonest scheme.

Both are to take advantages of others.

Why fraud?

This world is full of dishonest people. Millions of people today are so used to lies in their daily lives that scamming comes naturally to them. It is so common for businesses today to be prospering only by taking advantage of others.

Since this is their core business/work, they keep their conscience clear by justifying themselves and blaming those who are so naive for falling prey to these traps. Even though it is their fault, even the system only blames the victim ultimately for being so trusting. These frauds are very clever and escape after fooling others.

It is our duty to be well-informed and protect ourselves against theft, fraud and scam.

With increased awareness today about frauds and scams, the criminals are also becoming more shrewd. They are thinking out of the box and trying out brand new ways to fool people without them realizing. While some forms of internet fraud have gotten very sophisticated, some typical traditional ones still work too.

 

Why is Fraud/Scam so popular everywhere?

  1. The police is too busy solving bigger crimes in the world (i.e. murder, kidnapping, hijacking). Scam/fraud even in developed countries today is considered less of a crime and police won’t take much notice of it.
  2. On the internet, it is very difficult to catch the culprits. So police focus on bigger crimes only. The only one to be blamed will ultimately be you for falling prey to such scams. Fraud convictions are still rare which create a perfect opportunity for criminals. 

Role of the Internet in Fraud/Scams

The internet is the most widely used communication channel ever created. It’s used by millions of people every second of every day. Like everything else, the internet also has its pros and cons.

Among its cons, the worst are ongoing attempts to scam innocent people out of their money or identities. Whenever criminals see even a slight opportunity of making some easy money, they are ready to pounce on it.

The internet allows an easy opportunity as we are simply able to hide/change our identity. Its hard for police to catch people hiding behind the internet. So it is a great opportunity for fraudsters. Naturally, these criminals are waiting around every virtual corner with the latest in online scams.

Identity theft

It occurs when someone uses your identity or personal information without your permission to commit a crime/fraud or for financial gain.

Typically the culprit will pretend to be you to get you in trouble, save face or steal your money. Common misused information could include:

  • Your name
  • Photo
  • Driving license
  • Social security number

The internet and phone have made identity theft much easier as there is always a chance of error when you’re not face-to-face.

Most common victims

Scammers are always looking out for easy targets and those who are vulnerable. This is why we should always try to keep our exterior strong. People who want to exploit you will see your weakness as their opportunity. The day I realized this, I felt really heartbroken. This is one of the saddest realities of this world and we must be aware of it!

  • Girls are being targeted more than men
  • Widows, orphans, poor and needy are common culprits
  • Immigrants and tourists as they are naturally vulnerable
  • Elderly people are targeted as they are more trusting and not familiar with the technology
  • If you are in a desperate situation like jobless. When you aren’t able to think rationally and need something badly, you are an easy target as you’re not thinking straight

It’s a tragic truth that most fraudsters target weak people or those who aren’t able to fend for themselves.

How can we prevent it

Let’s raise awareness for some red flags to look out for. Basically, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scam. The world is full of crackheads so staying vigilant is the best way.

If people know more about the types of frauds/scams taking place and what to look out for, we can save people from getting robbed out of their hard-earned cash.

Because it can be embarrassing to admit that you have been scammed, often times (and surprisingly) victims will let their pride get the best of them and will not submit a report – this is exactly what scammers want.

Some common forms of fraud

1. Being asked for a loan/money

  • Your friends or relatives ask you for a loan. They promise to return it but never do.
  • Sometimes our old friends’ accounts can get hacked on social media. Pretending to be them, the hacker asks you for money.
  • At the bus stop, a stranger asks you if you have some spare change as they’re short of it for the bus. If you give them the change, they inform their gang members and they ultimately start snatching your handbag as they know you responded to them once.
  • You’re driving and someone pretends to have been hit by your car. He comes back to you with a limp asking for money for what you have done.

Tip: If anyone asks you for money on the internet, your alarm bells should be ringing!

2. Pretending to be needy

This is the type of fraud that hurts me the most. This is what justifies emotionless humans of today.

  • Someone pretends to have collapsed by lying down on the pavement. If someone stops to help him, his gang robs them.
  • Another such fraud is to ask strangers on the road that you need to make an urgent phone call. When they give you their phone to help you, you run away with it.
  • Someone pretends to have had an accident from your car, pretends to limp or pushes himself to your car and pushes you for money for what you have done.

3. Overcharging and Mis-charging 

Unfortunately, many big companies are also indulging in this kind of fraud. There is a fine line between a technical error, a human error, mistake or a conscious fraud. Unfortunately, as consumers, we can be lazy or be too trusting sometimes. We also don’t check our bank statements and manage expenses properly. This behaviour typically encourages business/companies to attempt a fraud. Following are some examples of this kind of a fraud:

  • Your mobile phone company has a contract with you to charge you a monthly $X charge. In some months, they charged you more. Only 30% of customers actually catch such a problem and report it immediately. The rest would either find out when it’s too late for legal action or be confused and think maybe they overused the service; some would never even check their bank statement to know. Many companies today are indulging in this type of a fraud as its very easy to get out of it. They can always come clean by saying it was a technical error.
  • Whenever you go to a store and pay through cash, do you always count the change you are returned? Unfortunately, most people don’t! This encourages shopkeepers to attempt making a mistake. They could pay you less change. Its a game of probability. Most people won’t find out and they get away with the crime. Very few will check you, you simply apologize for your mistake to those who catch you. You get away with all the rest. There are no consequences of such crime as they can always say it’s a genuine mistake. No law in the world can hold you accountable for it. In fact, it will be your fault as it is a consumers duty to count the change at the till when you check out.
  • At a store or restaurant, you could be paying by card. They charge you more. Many people won’t find out and will proceed to check out. Very few do. A few more will find out later and call up customer services and get after them to get a refund. There will still be many who will never realize. The companies will benefit from this. PizzaHutt once charged me Rs. 9000 instead of Rs. 900 on my debit card. I even signed on the paper without realizing there’s an extra zero in the amount. We are normally talking to friends or not paying attention. Luckily they found out their mistake and gave me a refund later. But just an example of how absent-minded we can be as customers.

4. Fraud shopping/tour websites

Now that online shopping is becoming more and more popular, a lot of fraud shopping websites have emerged on the internet. You have to be extremely vigilant. Here’s how to identify fraud shopping websites.

  • Basically never buy from a website that is looks and feels fishy 
  • Which promises to sell products at impossibly low prices
  • Look for HTTPS, when you are entering your payment information as its secure
  • Always try to buy on well-established sites
  • If buying on a new site, ask your friend about his/her experience with that website

So keep in mind the above tips to spot a fraudulent/ fake shopping website to stay safe from shopping scams.

Another example of this is some tour operator companies with an online presence (website, Instagram & FB page).  They offer fake tours, take the money and then block people.

Another way to fraud is to ask for different prices from different people. This is why all online businesses should clearly mark their prices. Quoting everyone a different price isn’t right. 

5. Being asked for help

  • One of my family friends was in a toilet in Daewoo station Sargodha. Suddenly a 7-year-old girl walked up to her and asked her if she could help her in zipping up her dress. The moment she started helping the girl out, her mother came out with a stick and hit her head and she fainted. All her jewelry and handbag was stolen in the process. She also suffered head injuries.
  • There have been cases when someone asks you to stop your car and give them a ride. When you do, they take out their weapons. They can either mug you or make you do things you won’t do willingly.

6. Buying online 

Be careful when selling/buying things from Craigslist, Kijiji, OLX etc. where you think you are getting a great deal. An example of such a fraud is for concert tickets. A person can easily be robbed or handed fake tickets.

7. Credit Card Fraud

Credit card (or debit card) fraud is a form of identity theft that involves an unauthorized invasion of another’s credit card information for the purpose of taking funds from it. This kind of fraud is very common esp in North America. Debit/credit card fraud is thus committed when a person:

  1. Fraudulently obtains, takes, signs, uses, sells, buys, or forges someone else’s credit or debit card or card information
  2. Uses his or her own card with the knowledge that it is revoked or expired or that the account lacks enough money to pay for the items charged
  3. Sells goods or services to someone else with knowledge that the credit or debit card being used was illegally obtained or is being used without authorization
  4. Credit card fraud schemes generally fall into one of two categories of fraud: application fraud and account takeover

Application fraud refers to the unauthorized opening of credit card accounts in another person’s name. This may occur if an offender can obtain enough personal information about the victim to completely fill out the credit card application, or is able to create convincing counterfeit documents.

Account takeovers typically involve the criminal hijacking of an existing credit card account. Here an offender obtains enough personal information about a victim to change the account’s billing address. The perpetrator then subsequently reports the card lost or stolen in order to obtain a new card and make fraudulent purchases with it.

There are many ways that credit thieves gather your personal information:

  • Using lost or stolen credit cards
  • Stealing from your mailbox
  • Looking over your shoulder during transactions
  • Going through your trash
  • Sending unsolicited email
  • Making false telephone solicitations
  • Looking at personnel records

8. Fake Charities

Scammers take advantage of your willingness to help people in need and charitable causes. They may collect your donation and keep it for themselves instead of using it to help those in need.

If you think that posing as a charity in order to rip people off is just too despicable for anyone to do, well, guess again. There are plenty of scammers out there that will say and do anything to rip people off, including posing as a charity. A common scam claims to collect funds for local police and fire departments, while another pretended to fund cancer philanthropies. Remember you can always call back a charity after doing some research.

9. Not being paid back

Common forms include:

  1. Not being paid back a loan
  2. Not paying tuition/service fee for tuitions, photography, teaching sessions
  3. Signing a commitment/contract with you and later backing out

Remember this can happen with our closest ones too. That’s why its best to keep money/business out of family as it can potentially ruin relationships. On the other hand, it can tell you who is really your true family.

What to do if you have experienced a fraud

  • File a fraud alert immediately
  • Report it to the police
  • Acting quickly is integral to getting your identity back
  • Contact the businesses at which your identity was used falsely
  • Remember its very difficult to get your money back
  • Whatever happens, don’t stay silent. Raise awareness to help others
  • Spread awareness – Blog about it. Tell those around you so they can be alert

Scam reporting agencies

It obviously depends where you are living. Following are some references for North America.

How to protect yourself

Following are some solutions and general red flags to be aware of:

  1. Even if you’re feeling weak and broken inside, make sure you appear beautiful and strong from outside.

When fraudsters see you weak and upset, they see this as a perfect opportunity to attack you.

  1. If anyone calls and requests personal information, immediately be suspicious of their identity. If they are truly from a bank, they should be able to verify your information to you, not require that you verify it with them.

  2. If someone is asking you for money in any form (fees, charge, payment) be careful. Be wary of sending money anywhere for an emergency situation.

  3. Whenever someone says you have won or something sounds too good to be true

  4. When someone is pushing you to do something quickly. Take a breather. Try not to get pressured into making quick decisions. You should always feel like you can take the time to research an organization, including checking it out online.

  5. Usually, the most important thing is that you don’t give away financial and sensitive personal information (address, date of birth, bank information, ID numbers) out over the phone.

7. You can always ask the person calling for more information, do some research, and call them back. If they’re reluctant to comply, they’re likely trying to scam you.

  1. Remember to check your bank and credit card statement regularly, especially after getting a suspicious call.

  2. Lastly, never send money by prepaid card or wire transfer (which are difficult to track) to someone you don’t know.

With the rise of the Internet, many scammers are moving to the web. But that doesn’t mean that they’ve forgotten about the phone. Any tool that gives them a shroud of anonymity can be used to take advantage of people, especially the elderly.

Fortunately, most phone scams can be avoided by simply not making any rash decisions. So, remember: take a deep breath, and don’t let anyone push you into doing something that sounds suspicious.

Know the basics of web safety

  • Do your research properly. Study the documentation in detail.
  • Always check the domain name of the site you are on. If you think you are on twitter.com but the domain name is T V V rather than TW, it is likely a scam site set up to mirror a real site.
  • Notice that there is a difference between https:// and http://. The “s” will tell you if the site is a secure, or encrypted, site. This means that potential thieves cannot easily pilfer information you provide on this site.
  • In addition, a secure site will show a picture of a closed padlock next to the domain name.
  • Do not click on any attachments in emails from unknown senders as they could automatically download malware software onto your computer that can be nearly impossible to remove.
  • Any site that utilizes pop-up advertisements and has obnoxious ads should raise a red flag. These sites are usually created to generate income for the owner and more filler than actual useful information. Sites like these are more likely to be used for phishing and tricking the user into downloading malware.
  • Use trusted browsers that have built-in phishing protection. FirefoxGoogle ChromeInternet Explorer and Edge are all designed to alert you of phishing websites before they are entered.

Scams/Frauds we have faced personally

Major

  1. When I moved to the UK in 2008, I was desperate to find work. I started applying online for jobs. I found a website which contacted me and I was interviewed for a fake job opening. After all that, I was asked for a 60 pounds registration fee which I paid from my salami. At that time, it was a lot of money for me. But I was desperate for a job and was only 23 and pretty naive, so I paid them the money and the company and website disappeared. I realized very soon it was all a scam. I felt terribly embarrassed and angry.
  2. After moving to Canada in 2018, my husband applied to a company through Glassdoor. The position seemed to be a good fit for him. He was called for an interview from that company. We checked the website of the company. It seemed genuine. The fraudster used a legitimate company, pretended to call from them, took interviews, then sent a check and asked him to get iTunes gift cards from the check money. When he submitted the checks at the bank. They were accepted.We didn’t know that in Canada, fake checks are also accepted and a certain limit of payment is released by the bank instantly. After some days, the bank bounces back the check and the money initially released is deducted from your account. The fraudster pretending to be an employer took the gift card numbers from him. When we got a little concerned, he said why are you worried, it’s my check money which I sent you. It was all a scam.When the bank later rejected the check, it was actually our money which he was stealing through gift cards. We lost $800 even though he tried to take $3000 from us. He felt terribly embarrassed and frustrated. The police told us there’s no way such culprits can be caught as he was using a fake ID. We were immigrants who had left everything and were living on savings which we earned in Rupees. This was a major blow for us!

Minor

  1. A person came to us in Sargodha Daewoo station crying and saying someone snatched his wallet before he could buy his ticket. He really needs to travel due to a family emergency and he has no money. He was so dramatic that Papa gave him money. Some months later, he accidentally came to our car asking us for money using the same story. The moment we looked at him, he realized he had already pitched to us. So he ran away.
  2. In F-10 Islamabad, we saw an old woman begging for money on a road on a cold winter night. When we saw her without a dupatta (veil), we felt sorry for her and my sister Nataliya decided to donate her new shawl to her. We stopped the car and handed the shawl to the woman. When we made a U-turn, we saw that the woman had hidden the shawl and was asking others for money again. We felt bad about giving her the new shawl. She was obviously a fraud.

Exposing scammers

You can find out online scammers here to expose them

Kitboga exposes scammers on his YouTube channel in a fun way 

References: Read More

The following articles are really important to learn more about fraud/scams.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the following followers who were kind enough to help me create both these Fraud related posts. Without your help, it wouldn’t have been possible.

Coming up next

Next post is on 18 most common types of scams. Stay tuned for that.

Feedback, please

  • Have you ever faced a fraud or a scam?
  • Tell me how you have been scammed?
  • What are the ways in which you were scammed?
  • Did you report the crime?

I would love to know.

Let’s stick together in our mission to raise awareness to prevent those fraudsters from getting away with our hard-earned money. Share this article with your friends to raise awareness. 

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Nadiya Najib

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