This new breed of scammers combine the tried and true “phishing” technique with some high tech networking skills. These scammers have discovered opportunity in the slag time we all call “red tape” – the time it takes for almost any transaction to process. No matter the transaction, it has a certain amount of time required for it to be validated and processed, or exposed and rejected. This may be the age of instant gratification, but we all inherently believe that when it comes to a check clearing the bank, a refund to come in the mail, or something to arrive that we’ve ordered – it takes time. In some cases we may let weeks go by before we even begin to question the transaction. The amount of time require to raise the proverbial “red flag” is the window of opportunity for these new age scammers. Like a Ninja, they must strike their victim with devastating financial force – then completely disappear. Enter the new age of “Ninja Scammers”.
To briefly describe how these organized and highly technical scamming operations and scammers work, we should take a look at what sort of people are involved. It’s suspected, due to some of their advanced telephone marketing skills that these scammers are either trained within the organization in telemarketing – or have had prior experience as a telemarketer. It’s even been suggested that the organization helps to further fund itself , and the training of it’s people, by running psychic lines and sex chat lines. These scammers have experience with the internet and web development, and can construct a fully functional web site to mimic almost any legitimate company in the world. These scammers have search engine savvy, and can acquire the names of legitimate business people, legitimate business information, as well as market information in order to effectively represent themselves as the person or business they claim to be. These scammers are trained in setting up fictitious addresses, phone numbers, voice mail accounts, and throwing together a business plan complete with market analysis data within 24 hours. These scammers are skilled in document reproduction, and are especially fond of corporate bank checks, small business checks, and personal checks. But the most important skill these scammers must possess – is the ability to completely disappear in a matter of minutes.
An example of a typical mid-level scam for this organization would be to construct a bogus lending corporation website with the name of a legitimate lending corporation. The scammers would buy a “starter” package from a web hosting company, and register a name similar to the legitimate business. For example, if the business was named “Birkbeck Loans, Inc.”, the scammer would register the domain “www. birkbeck-loan-processing.com”. These scammers would either replicate the graphics on the real site – or in some cases, directly link to the graphics. But the finished site would look almost exactly like the original site. The one difference would, of course, be the application for the loan. The application would require all your personal information, your banking information, credit card information – everything. It would also typically (but not always!) include a “processing fee” of as much as $250.00 that you are required to pay by credit card. The loans are “guaranteed”, so most in a desperate financial fix will pay the processing fee of $250.00 for a $100.000.00 loan. At the end of the application process you are instructed that loans can take up to 3 weeks to process, and that once your loan is approved, the money will arrive via direct deposit into the account you specified on the application. (The scammers way of getting your banking information!). Two weeks go by, you don’t hear a thing. Three weeks go by, you don’t hear a thing. There hasn’t been $100,000.00 deposited in your account. Finally – you call these people. A nice voice explains (after supposedly pulling up your records) that they are so sorry, but you were denied the loan, based on credit – or whatever excuse they decide to use. You’re mad as hell, it was supposed to be “guaranteed” – and you’re in the process of sounding off, when the nice voice explains – that yes, the loan is guaranteed – you get your full application and processing fee refunded to you in the rare event your loan is denied! You take a breath, say okay – fine, and hang up.
Two more weeks go by, you’re still waiting on your refund. Three weeks go by, still no refund check in your mail box. So you call these people again. You’re starting to think you’ve been scammed, and you’re almost positive when a recording tells you this number is no longer in service. You check the web site and all you can find is a cached copy on Google – the main site is gone. You’re now, officially, mad as hell. You call the local Authorities and explain everything that has transpired to them. A tired sounding Deputy takes your report with less than enthusiasm and finally informs you quote: “This kinda thing happens every day. There’s not really anything we can do about it. It would be like looking for a needle in a hay stack. Just be glad that all the scammers got to you for was $250.00 – take that as a hard lesson learned, and next time remember – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” You’re still mad as hell, but a part of you blames yourself for having not been more carefulÃ¢Â?Â¦ so you bite it. Tell yourself, luckily, it was only $250.00. Several more weeks, maybe even months, go byÃ¢Â?Â¦ you’ve almost forgotten all about it. Then you get an over draft notice from your bank. What? When did you write a check for $500.00? You march straight to the bank, check register in hand, and jump all over the first Teller you see. Bank Manager is called to the floor, and upon pulling the records, realizes this transaction was an electronic funds transferÃ¢Â?Â¦ not a check at all. Someone had a weekend at a Vegas hotel on you. And their biggest winning bet was that they’d never be made pay. Again you try to alert the Authorities, good God men – use forensics, call in Dr. Henry Lee – do something! The only advice they give you is to close your checking account.
You close your account. The bank – because you’ve been a good customer – cuts you some over draft slack – and you manage to make it out financially alive. Weeks go by, perhaps months, and although you haven’t forgotten, you aren’t feeling the sting of the scam quite as bad as you were before. Then you get your credit card statements. When were you in New York? When did you buy a Buick in Duluth? Oh my stars – when did you order the Playboy channel and $467.00 worth of pay-per view in a hotel in Salt Lake City? How could this be? Anyone who has ever had this happen to them can tell you – it’s a nightmare of an experience. Even if you have fraud protection on your credit cards – it’s still a nightmare! Once your identity has been stolen, it quite honestly seems impossible to get it back. It can take up to two years to ever restore your credit and your own identity. It costs money, takes time, and leaves you feeling as if you’ve been robbed – violated – some even compare being scammed to rape. Something has been taken from you that can never be fully restored – your trust and belief in people and the world around you. These scammers don’t just steal money – they steal a part of you.
What can you do to protect yourself from scammers? If you’re searching for a loan, contact the lending institution directly, through a number provided by the telephone directory or 411 information. Never fill out an on-line application for a loan unless you have spoken directly to the lending institution and they have instructed you to do so. Do not call the number listed on their web site! If the site is a scam, the number is a direct line to the scammer! Do not pay an “application processing fee”! A genuine lending institution does not request a fee up front, there may be costs later on, but never up front. And the most important thing to remember in the event this has happened to you – is to PROTECT YOURSELF. Don’t wait to cancel accounts, cancel credit cards, and remove your assets from venerable locations such as savings accounts that you know the scammer may have gained crucial information on. Take actions immediately! Contact your bank, contact your credit cards – the sooner you bring the situation to their attention, the faster they can assist you in stopping the illegal account activity.
Some more helpful suggestions:
Write to the Direct Marketing Association Telephone Preference Service and get on their no-call list.
Direct Marketing Association,
Telephone Preference Service
PO. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014
If you have been scammed be sure to report to the following agencies.
Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection
Call the toll free Consumer Help Line, 1-877-FTC HELP (1-877-382-4357)
Monday thru Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Eastern time or visit their website.
National Fraud Information Center at 1-800-876-7060, or visit their website.
The Attorney General’s office for your state, or the local District Attorney’s office, check your local phone book for listing.
The National Consumers League is a non-profit consumer organization, operates the center and employs professional counselors to help persons who have been scammed. They can make referrals to appropriate law enforcement agencies, as well as reassure older victims that they are not alone.
National Fraud Information Center website.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website
The FTC is the federal agency receives complaints from consumers who have been scammed and can provide information or referrals to appropriate federal or private organizations to help victims overcome financial or other problems stemming from frauds and scams.
And if you have a tale to tell, and want to spred the word across the internet:
The Rip Off Report website.