You might be familiar with the “Nigerian” 419-type scams that have been flooding our inboxes for some time now. The story is simple. Someone tells you they need help transferring funds offshore, or that you’ve won millions in a lottery. Once you respond, they ask you for all sorts of information, and might even ask for small amounts of cash to help move the alleged money that is supposedly coming from another country. Some people have even gone to the extent of travelling to other continents in order to claim the money supposedly stashed somewhere.
Later on (sometimes weeks or months later) you will learn that you’ve been taken for a ride, and the perpetrators have been sucking money out of your gullible pockets!
Well the perpetrators of this crime are a resourceful bunch. Now the scam has evolved into something that affects blogs and bloggers as well. We were alerted by our former editor, Tony Hung, of this new take on an old scam. Basically, the scammers purchase ad space or text links from your site, and then send you a check for an amount greater than the agreed price. They then ask for a refund.
If you fall for the bait and sell something for $2000, you’ll receive a check for $3000. The perpetrator of the scam will then claim that a mistake was made and ask that you refund $1000 via money transfer.
So you send $1000 via money transfer, which cannot be stopped… and in the end when it finally clears, the $3000 check ends up being a fake.
It’s an old fraud that uses technology for a clever new bit of social engineering.
These messages are being sent to website contact addresses and are including the site name in the body of the message. This results in a message that feels almost personalized and might potentially lower the guard of the recipient.
Tony says bloggers should watch out for advertising deals that sound too good to be true, and should always wait for checks to clear.
As always, we would advise using common sense in these types of dealings. For instance when negotiating with direct advertisers of an unsolicited type (meaning we were approached, rather than the other way around), we usually ask for information first before invoicing them for the ad space subscription:
- URL and anchor text of the target site.
- Other text, if applicable (such as with paragraph ads).
- Creatives (images, animations, etc.) to be used, if it’s a button or banner ad.
- PayPal email address.
- Name(s) of the company(ies) or individual(s) behind the site.
While this is usually just for reference, it also helps us become selective with the ads we feature. Information also helps us learn more about the companies advertising with us. We wouldn’t want any inappropriate content to be displayed on our sites, would we?
Then again, if you’re the type who likes scambaiting as a recreational activity, or if you’re the adventurous type then you can probably scam them back, like what the folks over at 419eater do. But remember that this can also be time-consuming (I know, I’ve tried it!) and could be dangerous if you actually slip up and disclose your real identity or other information.
Again, common sense is usually the answer!