Being connected to the global world brings exciting opportunities, but also exposes us to the underworld.
Here’s three scams I’ve been exposed to recently that alarm me. All three entered my personal space, came from the digital nether, and tested my abilities to think fast and differentiate the truth from lies.
Tax Evasion Phone Scam
The first event occurred when my baby was only a couple months old. I’d barely had any sleep and was generally agitated. On this particular afternoon, I finally got the baby down for a nap and looked over and my cell phone was ringing. I had it on silent, but I could see a call coming in.
My first mistake was answering it.
For some reason I thought it could be important. I’m not sure what is more important than a sleeping baby, but I wasn’t thinking clearly.
Male Voice: Is this Allison Kessler?
(Did he just struggle to pronounce my name?)
Me: Yes it is.
Voice: I’m calling from the Canada Tax Agency and your account has been flagged for tax evasion.
Me: What are you talking about?
Voice: I’m sure you know exactly what I am talking about. You hid $3,795 from the Canada Revenue Agency and you are being processed for a number of illegal activities.
The baby starts wailing because I woke him up. Just what I need, seriously.
Voice: Write down this claim number as you will need to pay the outstanding money immediately. You are about to be arrested and will need to answer for your crimes.
Me: I’m hanging up now and I’m going to call the real Canada Revenue Agency and see what they say.
That’s actually the best line I could come up with on the spot and holding the phone with a screaming baby. I was furious.
Hacked Facebook Account Swindle
I get a new Messenger request from a client (who had just fired me, not that it makes any difference). I accept the request and say hi.
Friend: Did you hear? I just won the Facebook Lottery!
Me: What are you talking about?
Friend: That guy who started Facebook? Well, he has too much money and he’s giving about $100K to lucky winners in a lottery. Guess what, I’m a winner and I saw your name on the list!
I open Google and do a quick search and see this is clearly a scam.
Me: Friend, you need to call the police, it’s a scam!
Friend: It’s not a scam, I gave the lottery people my contact details and a small delivery fee of $1,400 and they sent me a cheque for $100K by FedEx. I’ve already cashed it in and have paid off most of my debt!
At this point, I decided to text my former client and confirm I was actually interacting with her on Facebook. She writes back and confirms her account was hacked.
Now I’m pissed. I’ve just wasted 45 minutes of my precious time talking to criminals through an account of a person who just fired me. Bloody hell!
Credit Card Money Laundering Scam
I received an email request for a quote two days ago.
Email: Hello, can you handle website design for a new company and do you take credit cards?
Me: Yes and yes.
The man sends me details for a request for a brand new website design, domain registration and web hosting. The man wants a fairly quick turnaround of a month and a half.
I move around my current projects in my head and make room for it.
I send out the estimate, sure that it’s priced too high for acceptance.
I get an email saying accepting the quote and wanting to get started. Except, he needs me to do him a favour. He says he has a consultant in Canada handling all of the work with the content, but that the consultant doesn’t accept credit cards. He wants me to charge his credit card number for the consultant’s work and send the consultant cash.
Umm… red flags start going off.
I write back saying that I cannot handle his consultant’s fee.
He writes back asking more aggressively for me to handle this transaction.
I write back and tell him I rescind my estimate and that I won’t be working with him.
The problem is, I’ve just wasted two hours of my time preparing a comprehensive estimate. I could have been working for my actual clients.
Additionally — this is seriously crossing a line! What if the credit card number is stolen? What if he’s using the business deal as a cover to get money into Canada and to a friend? What if I’m just a pawn in his money laundering scheme? Guess who would be accountable to pay back the money. Me. Not counting the legal hot water I’d be in if I were a little more greedy or stupid.
I don’t believe in free money.
I do my own taxes and I know EXACTLY how much I owe and that it’s paid.
I’m wary of doing business with people I don’t know.
At the same time, these strangers and criminals … and god forbid, regular folk in poorer countries just wanting to bring home a paycheque, are intruding on my good nature and generosity. My natural tendency to want to be nice and polite and responsive is waning. (I’m pretty sure this is what people expect from most Canadians! We’re sitting ducks people!)
It makes me thankful that I am quick enough to fend off these “attacks” and not become a victim, yet I feel like I should have been quicker and smarter in order to save those precious moments of wasted time with scoundrels.