Beware! You can be cheated
Emails can be deceptive as this one
WHATS UP SAJJAD BAZAZ
The content of the SOS mail from my Jammu-based friend received a few days back in the late evening in my mail inbox was shocking on two counts. The mail, in the first instance, said, “I am sorry I didn't inform you about my traveling to Africa for a programme called "Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education.” As per the mail details, the program was taking place in three major African countries – Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria.
This is what, in the first place, shocked me, as we had a long chat over phone just a few days back and he didn’t discuss his planned trip to Africa. Why did he hide this from me? This question was probing my mind. Before I could lay more stress on this attitude of my friend, I started reading down the rest part of the email. And that was something more startling.
The email said that he was ‘really’ stranded in Nigeria, and he had forgotten his little bag containing his money, vital documents, passport and other valuable things, in the taxi on way to the Hotel where he was staying. “I am facing a hard time here, as I have no money. I have to pay hotel bill of $ 950 and also need around $1050 to make safe passage to my home,” revealed his email. So, he actually needed $2000, but stressed for any amount that I could afford to sort out his problems in ‘alien’ country. While narrating his plight, he wanted me not to share his sufferings with his family and also promised that he would repay me once he was back in Jammu. Lastly, he had suggested transferring the money, ‘whatever I could afford’, through Money Gram or Western Union.
This panicked me and I started desperately looking out for options to help him out while sitting at a remote location. While distressed to read about his plight, I replied that the needful would be done in the morning as during the late evening time it was not possible to do it. I also wrote him that I wanted to speak to him, because I had read lot of stories about internet frauds. So I wanted to make sure that this wasn’t one of those fraudulent emails that come to my inbox almost daily informing me of the lotteries that I have won and the fortunes that await me in countries like Nigeria, United States or United Kingdom etc.
Without having any iota of doubt on the credibility of the mail received from my friend, my heart sank as I imagined the plight of my friend stranded in Nigeria. During the whole night, I was thinking about the amount to be collected and forwarded to him. But, just after a day, the story took a turn, when a new email reached me. Even as it was again from my same friend, the email ID was different this time. The subject line said it all “my email ID has been hacked”. I was relieved and I thanked Almighty that my friend was safe and the incident narrated to me through the mail was fake. I also took a deep breath at the close shave with a financial disaster.
Now in a relaxed mood, I began examining my friend’s email and found that there were discrepancies in facts that I failed to detect. Basically on receiving a panic message and that too when it is you’re your nears and dears, you, obviously, tend to drop your guard. And it is here the fraudulent persons try to hit you and take advantage.
While going through such emails, several parts in a single mail get visible. Most of the time, these emails constitute spelling and punctuation mistakes. Even subject portion of the email would be peculiar. It costs nothing to send an email. Almost 90 per cent of such emails are not targeting you as a person. They are just spamming a few thousand, or may be more email addresses. It is like casting a big fish net into the ocean. Whatever fish gets caught is your booty.
Over the last decade, a number of people have lost money through these kind of fraudulent emails. You, too, would have got emails or SMSs from unknown sources, stating that you have won a lottery and you need to send some money towards administration and processing fees to claim the winning amount. Now, we have seen that nature of these emails has changed. You can see companies being shown as senders of such emails. These would be companies of repute and prominence, such as Microsoft and Coca Cola. Even Reserve Bank of India has not been spared. There are instances of people claiming to be RBI employees sending such emails to people to complete some formalities so that they could retrieve the prize money. This is done so as to eliminate the potential of suspicion. Now such mails have moved to mobile space. These kind of messages are send in the form of SMSs that you have won a lottery and that you need to get in touch at the email mentioned in the message. But these are all fake messages and an attempt to rob you of your hard earned money. Notably RBI has regularly come out with advertisements informing customers not to fall prey to such emails.
As more and more people go online, they will have to take precautions to secure themselves. There are some guiding principles and one should stick to them. Experts on cybercrime have stressed that one should not circulate his email ID on public platforms, especially social network sites. In a situation like the one described above, one should always call his friend if he receives an email asking for financial help. It is the most important thing not to respond to emails from people you don’t know. Especially those emails that promise or guarantee you a rosy picture without any accompanying effort.
Now a word of caution for those who go for online financial transactions. First and foremost thing is to avoid using cyber cafes for carrying out any financial transaction. Even these should be avoided to access emails. Always log on to your bank website for doing online transactions by typing the bank’s URL in the browser. Always avoid reaching the bank’s website by clicking on a link in the mail or on a website. Last but not the least – once you complete your transaction, log out. Don’t leave the browser open unattended.
Ask yourself a question. Would you trust a stranger in normal course of life? Most probably not. So one should apply the same logic and skepticism to the online space. Remember, there is no effective recourse available to retrieve the lost money through these emails.
(The views are of the author and not that of the institution he works for.
Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 20 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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