Don’t be fooled in 2017

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 12 January 2017, 12:00AM

It might be a new year but it hasn’t changed some people. 

We are talking about fraudsters and scammers making rounds in the world hoping to fool anyone into giving them money or whatever they are after. Samoa is not immune and many of us will have stories to tell.

With the availability of technology, these scammers have become quite prevalent. They pop up in your email, on your text messages and they will go as far as to call you pretending they know you. 

They operate based on a very simple truth. In this world, nobody will say no to the opportunity to become rich in an instant. Yes, we live in a world where we want everything to be instant.

Unfortunately, it’s a fact con artists have used to prey on their victims, robbing many of their hard-earned money. It’s also why conmen and women will always target the most vulnerable. They know people are in desperate need for money and that’s when they are vulnerable.

Come to think of it, the offers are certainly attractive. To the eyes of an unsuspecting victim, it would be like a blessing from above. Especially when the promises for return on investment – or whatever you are asked to give – are astronomical and ridiculous.

But this is where we need to be cautious and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is a new year and our people must be alert to this madness. We raise this issue because while Samoa seems small enough, you will be amazed to know about the number of locals – many of them well educated - who have been fooled by these false schemes.

Which is why a warning issued by the Governor of the Central Bank of Samoa, Maiava Atalina Ainu’u-Enari, made a few years ago about taking risks in international money scams that promise big money is worth revisiting today.

“This is a global issue and Samoa is not immune from the risk and vulnerability of being targeted by these criminals,” Maiava said. “In fact, we have information on some members of the public who have actually lost a lot of money as a result of these scams.”

The scams vary from time to time. They come in the form of letters or emails offering commissions for uncollected millions of dollars in some exotic places we’ve never heard of. Even our mobile phones have become a target. 

But why would anyone want to offer a total stranger millions?

The truth is that these letters, emails and text messages are nothing but scams. They are designed so that victims like you and me can provide upfront fees and other details, which allow them to suck all your money.

 “Once you provide payment for fees, they will continue to make excuses for the delay of sending you the money, requiring more payments for other make up expenses, such as insurance costs, handling costs, bank fees, courier costs, transfer fees and so on,” Maiava explained. “So rather than winning a prize, you could lose a lot of money.”

And that has happened to many people. Some have been conned of tens of thousands of dollars simply because they genuinely believed they were in with an opportunity to make several millions.

Back to Maiava, she also issued a list of suggestions for prevention, such as:

• Never send money or give personal details to people you don’t know or trust.

• Never rely on a number provided in an email or click on the provided link – instead find the contact number through an internet search or other independent means. 

• If you receive a request from a friend or family member stranded while on holiday asking you to transfer money to them, contact them by phone or use alternative contact to verify the request is genuine, before sending any money or providing personal details.

• Take time before committing anything on an offer. If you are asked to respond immediately, make an impossible offer, then take it as an indication that the individual or company is pressurizing and counting on you to make a hasty decision. 

• Discuss with friends. They might be aware of the offer being a scam. They might be able to read through the lines better. 

• Before revealing any personal information to an online request, think whether you would reveal the same to a stranger you meet on the street.

• Contact the Central Bank / Samoa Financial Intelligence Unit for more information or advice. 

So there you have it folks, if something sounds too good to be true, the chances are it probably is. We need to be careful to protect ourselves. We also need to remember that these international con artists are ruthless and they will strip you naked if that’s what it takes for them to achieve their selfish purposes. 

So be careful and watch out for those scams. Do not be fooled.

Have pleasant Thursday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 12 January 2017, 12:00AM

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