By: Laura Walton AFC®
Do you believe in the Rule of Three? Those who do believe that both good things and bad things come in threes – apparently scams do also as three have recently come across my desk.
The first one looked like an invoice for our Foundation. We’re in the process of trademarking the 3rd DecadeTM so it seemed legitimate…until you looked a little closer: 1) it was from a company in Hungary, 2) they only accept bank transfers, not checks, and 3) their use of the language was a little off, i.e. pronouns were missing, nouns that should have been plural weren’t, etc. We didn’t send them the “USD 2450,00” they requested.
The second was a letter mailed to a client of the Foundation. The writer had determined she was next of kin of a deceased customer of TD Canada Trust Bank. The $9.2M “Inheritance opportunity” was soon to reach its 10-year expiration at which time it would be turned over to the system – “you must reply quickly”. He said that “it requires all confidentiality at this stage and I believe that you are ready to keep this absolutely discreet until you are able to claim the funds from the bank. Once the funds are released to you, it will be shared between the two of us.” She was asked to email the letter writer at an email address unrelated to the bank.
Plenty of red flags: a $9.2M estate of an unknown relative, creating urgency, requiring confidentiality, and the generous offer to share the account. A search for TD Canada Trust Bank shows that it is a legitimate financial institution but also that they have identified similar letters/emails (down to the $9.2M figure) as phishing attempts. Our client reported the scam to the Office of the Arizona Attorney General who, in turn, referred her to the Federal Trade Commission.
The last was an advertising piece addressed to me personally. The pamphlet was titled “U.S. Gov’t Could Soon Replace Social Security Cards with “ID Coin”…hummmm…really? It added “1) Major roll out to 1.1 billion people beginning this year, and 2) This hack-proof crypto technology could be 40x bigger than Bitcoin, and make early investors a fortune as the market grows by 80,782%.” You can imagine the generous use of yellow highlighting, red arrows and large, bold numbers! The ultimate call to action seemed to be to purchase their newsletter for $49 a year, a savings of $150. A quick online search confirmed that they do, indeed, publish a newsletter and tout customer satisfaction with quotes like this one from Nancy N: “I now live on the ocean at the entrance to the most beautiful harbor in southern Maine. I have a net worth well in excess of a million dollars. I can thank you for my success in achieving this wonderful life.” Not an intentional fraud but rather an exaggerated advertising claim, this mailing would hit home with people susceptible to hype over common sense.
Americans lose millions of dollars each year to fraud. Our haste, naivety and greed are important components for a successful scam – beware!