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America at Large

Infiltrating Internet Scams
By Ricky Allen
Aug 9, 2004 - 10:26:00 PM

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They come into our email inboxes everyday -- emails from persons destined to die and have lump sums of money left behind and they need someone to take care of it .. allegedly.

This time around, I decided to see how far I could carry the person, going into a world of spin, misspelled words, and questions unanswered. The email came from Mercy Hadin Wachira, and what you read next is our actual dialog via email.

From: "Mercy Hadin Wachira."
To: "R.Allen"
Date: Wed, 4 Aug 2004 12:34:02 +0200
Subject: Hello..From Mrs Mercy Hadin Wachira.
ATTN:Dear IN christ,

I am the above named person from KENYA. I am married to Mr solomon Hadin Wachira who worked with KENYA embassy in Senegal for nine years before he died in the year 2000. We were married for nineteen years with a child He died after a brief illness that lasted for only four days. Before his death, we were both born again Christian.Since his death, I decided not to remarry or get a child outside my matrimonial home which the Bible is against.When my late husband was alive he left the sum of $7.5Million (seven million five hundred thousand U.S.Dollars) in one of the Security & Finance company here in Dakar Senegal. Presently, this money is still in their custody for security. Recently, my Doctor told me that I would not last for the next Eight months due to cancer problem. The one that disturbs me most is my stroke sickness. Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to a church that will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct herein. I want a church that will use this fund for orphanages, widows, propagating the word of God and to endeavor that the house of God is maintained. The Bible made us to understand that Blessed is the hand that giveth.I took this decision because of my only child thatwill inherit 25% from this money and help to secure a good education & accomodation and also for the seck of God i will like you take him as your child and been a guidiance to hime where by my husband relatives are not Christians and I dont want my husband s efforts to be used by unbelievers. I dont want a situation where this money will be used in an ungodly way. This is why I am taking this decision.

I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going. I know that I am going to be in the bosom of the Lord. Exodus 14 VS 14 says that the lord will fight my case and I shall hold my peace . I don t need any telephone communication in this regard because of my health. With God all things are possible.

As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you thecontact of the finance firm here in Dakar. I will also issue you an authority letter that will prove you the present beneficiary of this funds. I want you and the church to always pray for me because the lord is my shephard.

My happiness is that I lived a life of a worthy Christian.Whoever that wants to serve the Lord must serve him in spirit and truth. Please always be prayerful all through your life Any delay in your reply will give me room in sourcing another church for this same purpose.Please assure me that you will act accordingly as I stated herein.

Hoping to receive your reply. Remain blessed in the Lord.

Yours in Christ,

Mrs Mercy Hadin Wachira.

From this point, I went into more of a sincere, but yet curious prospect, looking at all the angles, and asking all of the questions.

Date: Wed, 4 Aug 2004 07:15:28 -0700 (PDT)
From: "R. ALLEN"
Subject: Re: Hello..
To: mercy_wa2@

"Why are u soliciting over the net for help? How did you get my email? Don't you have lawyer's for this kind of thing?"

This is where it got tricky.

Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2004 11:10:21 +0100 (BST)
From: "mercy hadin"
Subject: Thanks for your Reply.
To: "R. ALLEN" <navjoallen@yahoo.com>
"Dear Allen.

Thanks for your reply and willingness to assist me in transferring of my funds to your country, however the only thing i needed from you in this transaction is your trustworthinesses, because my condition in the hospital is very bad, and the Doctor say that I'm not going to last more than 3 week so that is why i cry out for you help , assist me transfer the money to your country as i cant do any thing of my own now and soon my funds get to your country you have to urgent try to enable my only son David to be coming to your country to start up a new life, and please don't forget that i will want you to assist me only son to further his education, because he is still a young boy and he is now 23 years old.

In addition , as you are willing to assist me, summarily please kindly send me your telephone and fax number together with your full resident address, because i have discuss personally with the people in the financial outfit on how my funds will be transferred to you, and they said all i needed to do is to sign a letter of nomination on your behalf, and the letter of nomination will empower you to make claims of my funds, so please i will like truth and honesty to be our watch word in this transaction as i always put you and your families in my prayers.

In conclusion, i will be waiting for your reply and try to be putting me in your prayers as you promise, and God will bless you in anything you are doing through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

Thanks,

Your's Mrs. Mercy Hadin and only son David."

Trustworthiness? The issue here is the fact that she wouldn't answer my questions, which leads to a great deal of suspicion. At first she sounded redundant; saying the same things she had said in her first email. Keep in mind, that she said has a 23 year-old son.

I asked for pics, and she sent them; however, there were none from the hospital, and her son didn't look all that helpless. Again I played the role of the curious prospect. Here's my reply:

Thu, 5 Aug 2004 15:05:25 -0700 (PDT)
From: "R. ALLEN" Subject: Re: Thanks God bless you .
To: "mercy hadin"

"Keep in mind I'm looking at all the angles and yet you have not answered my questions.

First, if he is a small boy, why did you say he was 23 in your last email?

Second, again, how did you get my email address? Please do not quote scripture to me due to the fact that both of my parents are ministers and to convince me that way would offend me. We're both adults here, and for all the hardache you 'are going through' it would suffice if you would answer me clearly.

We're talking money, personal information, and expenses.

Again she persisted that she was dying in 3 or so weeks and she's all worried about David ... with money left over, he could be P.Diddy.

Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2004 00:03:19 +0100 (BST)
From: "mercy hadin"
Subject: call me 00221 69 66 238
To: "R. ALLEN"
"Hello Allen.

Thanks for your mail as you can see that my conduction here in the hospital is not good so i have so many things thinking about so please i will like you to call me on phone so will can talk as i can Remember now. please I'm very sorry for not been able to give you the right web where i get your contact from you can see that my condition here in the hospital is not too good for me to think too far so please will advice you call me any time so we can talk. thanks

Mercy Hadin and Son David.

Note: My Note book the battery is down so please try to call me i have to off my computer now because is too late here but just can stop thinking about my only son David.

Why couldn't she find the site? and she is in the hosptial dying in about three weeks, but she's on a laptop? And then she wants me to call her -- an overseas call, to be exact. Notice that she tried to use urgency in the email to make me react quicker.

In conclusion, she got frustrated with my inquiries and stopped emailing me. For many of these people, this is how they attack us. What if they were terrorists? In today's world of high alerts and intense airport check-ins, we all have to do our part, which means not becoming a victim. If I were naive, she would have worked her way into getting my address, phone number, credit card account or bank account. This is private, vital information. As Americans, let's all play our part in the war against terror, because the computer is the one "window" in your house that many people can look through.

According to the Federal Trade Commission in regards to Consumer Fraud,more Than One-In-10 Americans Fell Victim to Fraud.

The Federal Trade Commission earlier this month released a statistical survey of fraud in the United States that shows that nearly 25 million adults – 11.2 percent of the adult population – were victims of fraud during the year studied. Certain racial and ethnic minorities were much more likely to be victims of fraud then non-Hispanic whites. American Indians and Alaska Natives were the ethnic group most likely to be victims: nearly 34 percent had experienced one or more frauds in the preceding year. Seventeen percent of African Americans were victims; over 14 percent of Hispanics were victims; and over 6 percent of Non-Hispanic whites were victims.

The survey of 2,500 randomly chosen consumers shows that consumers with high levels of debt were more likely to be victims of fraud. Three of the top four categories of fraud related to credit, including credit-repair scams often targeted at those carrying high debt loads or having bad credit.

The most frequently reported type of consumer fraud was advance-fee loan scams, in which consumers pay a fee for a “guaranteed” loan or credit card. Four and a half million consumers – 2.1 percent of the U.S. adult population – paid advance fees but did not receive the promised loan or card. In fact, some consumers reported that more than once during the last year they paid fees to get loans or credit cards they did not get.

Buyers’ club memberships or bills for unordered publications was the second most commonly reported fraud category in the survey. Some four million consumers – 1.9 percent of the U.S. adult population – were unwittingly billed for memberships they did not authorize or publications they did not order.

Credit card insurance scams and credit repair were the third and fourth most common frauds identified in the survey. While federal law limits consumers’ credit card fraud liability to $50, fraudsters sell credit card insurance by falsely claiming that card holders face significant financial risk if their credit cards are misused. An estimated 3.3 million consumers bought unnecessary insurance against the unauthorized use of their credit cards.

Some fraudsters convince consumers that they can help them remove truthful, negative information from their credit report, or establish a new credit record. They can’t, and credit repair schemes are illegal, but two million consumers paid for “credit repair” services the year prior to the survey.

The survey reveals that 33 percent of fraud victims first learned about a fraudulent offer or product from print advertising in newspapers, magazines, direct mail, catalogs, or posters. Telemarketing was the first source of contact in 17 percent of the frauds. Only 14 percent of fraudulent offers were promoted using Internet and e-mail; television or radio advertising account for only 10.6 percent of fraudulent offers.

Women and younger consumers are more likely to complain if they have been victims of fraud, the survey found. An estimated 74.5 percent of female victims complained. For males, the complaint rate was 10 percentage points lower. Similarly, almost 75 percent of consumers under the age of 35 complained, compared to only 55.4 percent of consumers between 55 and 64.

According to the survey, consumers between the ages of 25 and 44 are most likely to be fraud victims. Eleven percent of them were victims, compared to 8.7 percent in the 45 to 54 year bracket, 6.1 percent of consumers aged 55 to 64, and only 4.7 of consumers 65 years and older.

The top 10 frauds listed in the report include:

  • Advance-fee loan scams – 4.55 million victims
  • Buyers clubs – 4.05 million victims
  • Credit card insurance – 3.35 million victims
  • Credit repair – 2 million victims
  • Prize promotions – 1.8 million victims
  • Internet services – 1.75 million victims
  • Pyramid schemes – 1.55 million victims
  • Information services – .8 million victims
  • Government job offers – .65 million victims
  • Business opportunities – .45 million victims.

In addition to the fraud categories, the survey found that an estimated 13.9 million consumers were victims of telephone “slamming” – unauthorized and illegal changes in long distance telephone service. The Commission vote to release to survey was 4-0, with Commissioner Orson Swindle not participating. The FTC has publications to help consumers spot and avoid scams. They include: Just When You Thought It Was Safe ... Advance-Fee Loan “Sharks” Alert, Credit Card Loss Protection Offers: They’re the Real Steal, and, Credit Repair: Self-Help May Be Best.Copies of the survey are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


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