The simple rule of thumb is that if it’s too good to be true, it usually is

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 27 April 2016, 12:00AM

The warning from the Central Bank of Samoa and the ANZ Bank about fraudulent activities in relation to money-making internet scams yesterday is timely. We should all take note.

Although it is nothing new, it’s important nonetheless to be aware about them given the frequency in which it’s happening and the variety of ways scammers are using to lure unsuspecting victims. 

The truth is that some of them are pretty convincing and you will be surprised to know how many people – including some very smart people – who are gullible and end up being fooled. It happens in Samoa, believe it or not!

This is why the banks must be commended for taking immediate action to warn their customers – and all members of the public for that matter – because we are all potential victims for these heartless preys. 

These scams have been around for a long time. 

Remember the Nigerian scam and a few other types back in the days? 

Well despite a big international movement to eliminate the work of these criminals, they haven’t been able to put a stop to it. 

Just as technological advances have taken a huge transformation over the years, the scams have only evolved into new forms, taking on far more sophisticated ways to con you of your hard earned money.

In Samoa this week, the Central Bank and the ANZ Bank have alerted members of the public to be increasingly diligent as incidences of money transfer scams and other such fraudulent activities are on the rise in Samoa.

According to the warning, one of the new ways of scamming people is a money transfer type scam. How does it work? From what we are told, innocent victims are apparently tricked into receiving money into their accounts from fraudsters anywhere in the world. The receiver of the money is then encouraged to withdraw the money, keep a percentage of this as their so-called payment, and transfer the rest of the cash back using other means.  

“While customers may be none-the-wiser, they are in effect taking part in sophisticated money laundering scams orchestrated by criminals,” the Bank says. 

“This is a serious criminal offence and the Central Bank in collaboration with ANZ Bank and other commercial banks will not hesitate in disseminating these types of activities to the law enforcement agencies for further investigation and possibly prosecution.”

Scary isn’t it? Say you have no money in your account at all and suddenly you find that there are a few hundreds of thousands of tala sitting in there, it’d be pretty hard to resist, wouldn’t it? Even if you were to earn a couple of thousands from it, you’d think it’s not all that bad. But it is. By merely facilitating the request, you in fact are party to the act of money laundering which is illegal.

The worry about this part of the world is that many people are very vulnerable given their low incomes and the likelihood that they would be easily swayed by the promise of quick riches.

The good news is that while fraudulent activities and scams are becoming more sophisticated by the day, the Banks have given us some simple steps to protect ourselves from being conned and ending up on the wrong side of the law. 

“The best line of defence is to be diligent about safeguarding personal bank account details. Internet banking usernames and passwords, credit and debit card Personal Identification Numbers [PINs] and any information related to customers’ personal bank accounts should never be shared,” the Bank says. 

“We would also urge customers to regularly change their Internet banking passwords and card PINs, starting today. 

“Monitor your account. Keep an eye on your transactions and if you see anything you haven’t authorised, contact your bank immediately. 

 “Protect access to your computer and mobile devices. If you’re not careful, criminals may be able to get hold of your personal information and bank accounts.” 

Lastly, if you receive an email from anyone you do not recognise or do not know, do not open it. 

“Emails can be disguised to look legitimate. If you have any suspicions, contact the person or organisation it appears to have come from to check its authenticity.”

Well those are just some of the ways to protect yourself. 

But as this column often and always advocates when it comes to this issue, if it seems too good to be true, it always is. Nothing beats the rewards of hard work. 

So be alert, protect your account and yourself and have an awesome Wednesday, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 27 April 2016, 12:00AM

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