Lately, it seems like advance fee scams show up in our inboxes too “frequently.” In an advance-fee scam a victim is duped to sending money (normally across a border) in anticipation of making a lot of money in the near future. This week the Mounties (RCMP) announced they arrested 33 people, who were behind this type of criminal activity.

Reuters is reporting:

In an eight-month investigation by a telemarketing fraud task force that includes Canadian police and U.S. agencies such as U.S. Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Service, and the FBI, police said they discovered the ring was running a fraudulent lottery scheme.

Telemarketers would contact prospective victims under the guise that the individuals had won a large sum of money. To claim the prizes, the victims were asked to send payments ranging from C$1,500 ($1,300) to C$65,000 to cover what telemarketers said were customs charges, taxes and insurance.

Reuters story, here.

The report refers to lottery scams, but secret shopper scams another advance fee activity we’ve seen from Canada recently. Advance fee scams mutate frequently and there are a lot of different versions.

The Reuters story mentioned that a lot of the money was being sent by certified check, or money order. However, I see a lot of victims asked to cash a bogus financial instrument (normally counterfeit cashier’s check) and wire the money back to cover taxes etc., also

But wire-transfers, certified checks and money orders aren’t the only means money is being sent across borders. In another announcement, the FTC announced they are taking action against a “payment processor,” who aided 9 advance fee credit card schemes coming from Canada.

According to the FTC’s complaint, since at least January 2003 the operation has aided at least nine Canada-based, advance-fee credit card schemes that induce consumers to allow an electronic debit of several hundred dollars from their bank account in exchange for an unsecured credit card; but consumers never receive a credit card or, at best, they receive a “benefits package” containing relatively worthless items. The complaint alleges that the defendants debit funds from consumers’ bank accounts, deduct their processing fees from the gross proceeds, and forward the balance of the proceeds from the deceptive scheme to the telemarketers. According to the complaint, the defendants also provided customer service and complaint handling, order fulfillment, list brokering, and other services.

FTC release, here.

Apparently, advance fee fraudsters use a lot of different financial instruments to get their money and (despite a lot of misperceptions) – it all isn’t a Nigerian affair, either.

Of course, I hope we don’t blame Canada for all of this, I’ve seen advance fee scams originate from a lot of places. We live in what is termed a “global economy” and criminals can reach out thousands of miles with a click of a mouse.

The best way to avoid becoming a victims is to hold our inner-greed in check. Money doesn’t grow on trees and if someone leads you to believe otherwise (especially via Internet communication), it’s probably one of the many versions of the advance fee scam.

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