In the world of scams, what's old is sometimes new again
Scammers often employ new technology, like the Internet, to separate victims from their money, but other times go back to what's worked in the past.
Lately, some scammers supposedly operating out of Tanzania have been using the 1980s technology of fax communications to put a new face on that tried and true story of the deposed prince needing to transfer large sums of money out of the country.
Known as a "419 scam," named for section 419 of the Nigerian penal code, this scheme is normally implemented with an email. Though the butt of numerous jokes, it has nonetheless been enormously effective as victims want to believe that a total stranger in distress is willing to cut them in on millions of dollars.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says his office has begun receiving reports of the 419 scam hitting fax machines in the state. It consists of a message stating that the sender has a large sum of money and needs help transferring it out of a foreign country. As a reward for the consumer's help, the sender promises to pay the consumer a share of the funds.
The scam is always evolving. A sample of the most recent fax regarding Tanzania begins:
The fax goes on to say that Mr. Taylor's father has a large sum of money - in this case $177 million in bank security vaults in the name of a friend, who has just recently died. The father has supposedly directed the son to use this money for investment purposes in our country. The fax promises funds in exchange for assistance in transferring the funds out of Tanzania. Details are to be conveyed once contact information is received.
"Don't assist these criminals in the transfer of funds, regardless of what is promised, or you will become the victim," said Hood.
Hood also offers the following tips to help consumers avoid becoming victims of these and other common scams:
• Never reply to a fax, email, pop-up, telephone or text message that asks for personal or financial information. Legitimate companies will not ask for this information in that format.
• Always contact the organization asking for your personal information using a telephone number you know to be correct to inquire why the information is needed. Never call or text the number left in the message, and never follow an Internet link to a site.
• Never fax or email personal or financial information. Review credit card and bank statements as soon as you receive them to determine whether there are any unauthorized charges.
• Keep your anti-virus software up to date. In addition, use a firewall, which helps to make you invisible on the Internet and blocks communication from unauthorized sources.
• Be cautious about opening attachments or downloading files from emails you receive, regardless of the sender.