I have two spam filters on my University of Alaska email account, and yet recently three opportunities almost “too good to be true” filtered their way into my computer screen attempting to seduce me with visions of quick and easy wealth.
The first, a “pshing” email, which really looked like it came from my financial institution asked me to click on a link to update my account information. Whoa! No bank, credit union or credit card company ever sends emails asking for account updates while providing an internet hot link to the update. So I decided to mess with the crooks and I clicked on their link to send them on a wild goose chase. Then to my amazement their home page was nearly identical to my institution’s. These crooks even had the name of my bank in their hot link. Only common sense and the redirect in the URL gave them away. After about 2 ½ seconds of thought I decided it might be more dangerous than fun to mess with these guys.
The second scam (at least I think it is a scam) came from an alleged stock broker. If you are getting unsolicited advice that is consistently accurate you might be tempted to invest with that incredible firm — don’t. Here’s the potential scam: Crafty Crook gets a list of, let’s say, 2,000 or more legitimate email addresses (or even U.S. Mail addresses if they are really high class scam artists). To 1,000 of the addresses they say buy a stock because it’s going up soon. To the other 1,000 addresses they say buy that stock short because it’s going down soon. The 1,000 addresses that got the wrong guess get trashed by the crafty crooks. With the remaining 1,000 who got the good guess 500 of these “lucky contestants” get another “buy” and the other 500 are told to buy short. You guessed it: 500 potential suckers now have two good tips. Now the “lucky” list is split again and 250 remaining people have 3 right tips. When the list is split one last time 125 people are awed by 4 incredibly right-on tips. Now comes the personal solicitation backed by 4 potentially profitable investment tips. If only one of 125 unsuspecting (greedy) investors turn over retirement and other accounts to this mafia, then the scam paid off — to the devastation of the deceived investors. Beware of unsolicited good advice.
Here’s the third scam, it’s a sophisticated take off on the old Nigerian scam. I (and probably hundreds of other Fairbanksans) got an email Nov. 17 from a Dr. Paul Idzik who represented himself as a high official at Barclays Bank in London. He advises that a deceased Fairbanksan had a large dormant account. The crafty crook’s email is in perfect English with a URL linked to a legitimate news story about our neighbor’s death. He appeals to my ego and the sort-of believable yarn that this prominent Fairbanksan might have a few million stashed away. I thought it would be fun to play with this guy (or person) too, but Idzik’s email was so good, cowardice got the better of me again.
By the way, Dr. Idzik asked in his email not to give out his name — he didn’t want to risk his job at Barclays Bank. Run away from people who are even a little bit shady.
Be very careful of deals that seem too good to be true from strangers. But also be careful of deals that seem too good to be true from friends. I almost got taken by a hoax email that appeared to come from a friend at the Universit of Alaska Fairbanks, fortunately I noticed his near perfect return email address was just a little bit off.
For an interesting read on schemes and scams going around Alaska check out bit.ly/2pTnDBe. I assure this URL is safe; it is the Alaska Department of Law Consumer Protection Unit.
The crooks are getting craftier. Don’t let greed and ego take the place of hard work and due diligence. If you need proof I can send you Dr. Idzik’s offer and you can see first-hand where it leads. On second thought — let’s not press our luck. Whenever a deal seems a little gray, figure the dealer’s heart is black.
Charlie Dexter is a professor of applied business emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Community and Technical College. He can be reached at email@example.com. This column is provided as a public service of the UAF Applied Business Department.