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Posted: January 5, 2014

Education best defence against computer scams

LaurieJalbertBy Laurie Jalbert

Computers. What a great tool. You can book trips, do your Christmas shopping, download music, network, bargain hunt, or even sell your house… all without leaving the comfort of your chair or even your couch at home. What a great tool.

Computers. What a great tool. You can scam someone from halfway around the world. They can’t trace you and you never have to meet face to face, people will send you money… all without leaving the comfort of your couch at home.  What a great tool.

Computers ARE a great tool. What certain people choose to accomplish with this great tool is criminal.

I am talking about computer related scams. They are becoming just about as common as text messaging among teenagers. Everyone has heard about the Nigerian letter scam where you have been singled out from all the people in the entire world to be the beneficiary of a truckload of money and all you have to do is provide use of your bank account and can you please send your account information to a total stranger who writes in very poor English. I think this particular scam has landed so often in people’s inboxes that most people don’t give much more than a second’s thought to it before they hit the delete button.

Unfortunately there has been a blossoming of other kinds of computer related scams that are affecting people locally and preying on their desire to get a bargain, a screaming deal. If the deal is screaming then you should probably open your eyes, not just your ears, and look a little harder.

I will go over a few of the more common computer based scams that we have seen in the East Kootenay and hopefully give you some tools to recognize them. The best means of dealing with these scams is to prevent them in the first place and that means educating yourself on what to look for or even where to look to find out.

What we see now in the way of scams has become more sophisticated. Scammers are now seeking out their “marks” on the computer because their target has placed themselves there and asked others to come forward via advertising.

Let me explain; I would like to tell you about a scam that is most often directed towards those who provide services. This is often called a booking scam. They might be golf lessons, accommodations, fishing trips, guided hunting trips and usually involve fairly large ticket items.

I will share an example with you that happened at my former detachment where I first saw this scam rear its ugly head. The lady owned a series of cabins that she rented out, 10 of them to be exact. She advertised like most businesses do. She received an e-mail one day from an individual who purported to be part of a Christian group that wanted to have a retreat at her location on the coast and wanted to book all 10 cabins for three days. She was obviously thrilled to have that kind of business find her on the Internet. She accepted the booking and through a series of e-mails she became aware that the fellow was from the U.K. and they became quite friendly over the e-mail and she began to feel that there was a rapport developed with this “customer.”

Then she received an e-mail in which the fellow stated that they were having difficulties with the transportation company that they were dealing with and that for one reason or another they were unable to take a credit card and would the cabin owner be so kind as to send the transportation company the $2,000 to cover the transportation costs and they would provide her their credit card number and square up with her when they arrived.  She did just as she was asked. They never showed up. The credit card was stolen.

She was out the $2,000 cash as well as the booking for that weekend of all 10 cabins for the three-day period. She came to us to see what could be done. She had some e-mails that had been routed through servers in the U.K.  The names were fake, there was nothing real about it except for the money she sent.

We were not in a position to start an international investigation for the relatively small sum of several thousands of dollars. The RCMP simply does not have those kinds of resources and international crime deals with much bigger fish. This particular scam comes in many variations but essentially a service of one kind or another is booked, all goes well until a glitch is hit wherein you are asked to cover the costs for the group in one way or another with the intention being that you will be reimbursed. If something about a requested transaction makes you uncomfortable, listen to you inner voice and stop for a moment and ask questions.

Who do you ask? For every scam that has been tried out there, there is also a warning on the Internet. Go to your search engine and start looking. For the above scam you would find examples under “accommodation scam.” There are a number of sites that will also give you information like Scamnet or Phonebusters or any number of others. Finding out whether something is a scam is easy and if you are being scammed over the Internet then you have the tool to find out and bust the scammer.

Your best defense against this type of crime is to educate yourself. The booking scam was tried here with one of our golf courses in booking a very large and expensive golf and golf lesson package. The folks at the golf course thought that this was odd and sent us the e-mails. That is as far as the scammer got but the Internet ensures that anyone who advertises a product or service can become a victim of this kind of scam.

Remember, a computer is a great tool. There is a world of information available at your fingertips but it is only there if you go out and find it. Use that information to protect yourself and your business. If it sounds too good to be true… it very likely is.

At least… that’s the way I see it.

LJCliffsMeatsLaurie Jalbert arrived to the Kootenays in 2006 as a member of the RCMP and now makes it her permanent home. Retired from the force, she is co-owner of Cliff’s Meats in Cranbrook ( She can be reached at: [email protected].

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