A "Scam Detectives" guide to keeping your business safe online.
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Never before has your business faced such a sophisticated threat from those who would part you from your hard earned cash.
Scammers, Spammers and Social Engineers are working harder than ever before to convince you to download viruses and malware to your computer, trick you into parting with cash for goods or services you'll never see or even take you to the cleaners with the promise of untold riches.
This guide by the editor of popular scam awareness site Scam Detectives (www.scam-detectives.co.uk) will help you and your staff to spot the scams, tricks and social engineering techniques that could lead to you losing thousands of pounds in cash or goods, or in extreme cases lead to you going to prison!
Early scam artists
The concept of dishonesty is certainly not a new phenomenon. Since time began, man has traded with man. In prehistoric caves and mud dwellings around the world, those skilled at hunting would trade meat and hides with those able to create tools and weapons in return for their wares.
As societies evolved, so did the concept of currency, moving from the trading of stored commodities to monetary transactions involving coins forged from bronze, silver and gold and the accumulation
of wealth became a powerful motivation for the traders.
Even in these early civilisations, there were those who would take advantage of their fellow man to gain something for nothing or give less than promised to their customers. These early conmen
would pad out sacks of potatoes with rocks to increase their weight, use subtle sleight of hand to cut short lengths of cloth or even create their own coins made of worthless metals that looked like the genuine article.
Early English literature makes references to dishonest people selling worthless goods for a hefty profit. Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), author of The Canterbury Tales, tells of a “Pardoner”, a medieval priest who would offer absolution to sinners in return for cash. The Pardoner boasts to his fellow travellers of having sold sacred objects which were in fact pigs bones as opposed to the bones of departed saints as he claimed.
The first “Con Man”
Despite these early mentions, the label of “Con Man” was not used until the trial of American criminal William Thompson in 1843.
Mr Thompson had an unusually direct method of ripping off his victims, involving engaging strangers in conversation until he had established sufficient rapport to ask them if they had enough
confidence in him to lend him their watch.
When the hapless “mark” handed over his treasured timepiece, William would simply put it in his pocket and leave.
This may seem like a ludicrously simple approach to scamming, yet many people are taken in every year by similar ruses even now.
Examples include the “good samaritan scam”, where a well dressed businessman approaches a stranger on the street claiming to have been mugged and asking if he can borrow a few pounds for the train fare home, promising to return the money as soon as he can get a replacement bank card. Of course, the money is never returned, and the conman will repeat the scam many times over the course of a day, netting hundreds of pounds for a few hours “work”.
Mr Thompson's direct approach is not one that is favoured by the majority of ripoff merchants. The most lucrative cons are those whereby the victim does not realise that he has been duped at all, or
only realises once it's too late to do anything about it. Because many scams pull the victim into a scenario which may be legally questionable, they often go unreported.
The Internet Age of Scamming
As technology and services have evolved in modern times, the methods used by conmen have also become more sophisticated.
Now that reliance on the Internet for commercial transactions and communication has become widespread, it has been embraced by scammers as a cheap and efficient way of reaching hundreds of thousands of potential victims in the time it takes to craft an email.
The availability of word processing, graphic design and web design software has enabled fraudsters to create convincing and credible documents, websites and credentials to help them deceive their victims even more effectively than ever before.
Throughout this book, you will see examples of fake websites and authentic looking emails purporting to come from banks and official organisations that have been used to great effect by real scammers.
By the time you've finished reading, you may feel that you simply can't take anything you see online at face value and that you never want to touch your computer again.
This is not my aim.
In writing this book I hope to give you more confidence to use the fantastic resource that is the Internet to further your business whilst encouraging you to exercise extreme caution when you are inevitably faced with the temptation of getting involved in that “once in a lifetime” opportunity to make some extra money for a minimal effort.