Here on Komando.com, we warn you about scams to help keep you safe. Whether it's a coupon scam, a phone scam, a lottery scam or something else, there are people out there who want to steal your money.
When you hear the stories of people who've been conned, it's often easy to pass judgment. But, keep in mind, scammers work to perfect their craft, just like the rest of us. In many cases, there may be something that seems slightly off, but there are also logical reasons to justify it. This makes picking out a scam more difficult.
That was the case for a man named Frank, who lost $50,000 through an elaborate Facebook scam.
It started when he received a Facebook Friend Request from a woman named Kim. He'd never met Kim before, but she claimed to be a drill sergeant in the U.S. Army, who was stationed in Afghanistan. Their conversations seemed completely normal at first, but eventually led into more.
Kim and Frank's relationship wasn't anything romantic. Instead, the two became friends, and Kim eventually asked Frank for a favor.
"As we were talking on Facebook, she asked me to help her get a couple of consignment packages out of Ghana and into the States," Frank explained. "[She said they'd] be delivered to me."
He agreed to help her, and Kim provided him with instructions. She put him in contact with a company called Say Cargo Express Inc., and various legal and shipping personnel.
"The packages contained, according to Kim, $10.5 million in cash and $70,000 in gold bars," Frank said. And he was promised that once the package arrived, he'd receive a commission.
Other parties from the shipping company soon began corresponding with Frank regarding the cargo. There was even a man named Tony Lithur who claimed to be a lawyer, hired to ensure that everything was done legally.
Frank began losing money in small increments at a time. First, he was asked to send $3,000 to cover Lithur's legal fees. Next, he was asked to send $9,000 to cover the storage fee for customs. The big scams came when he was asked to pay two different $17,000 installments to cover the gold fee from the Ghana government, and fee for the IRS.
The parties involved communicated with Frank for around four months, dragging out the process with "hiccup" after "hiccup," and requesting fee after fee. Eventually, Frank began to suspect that he was being scammed.
"To be honest, when she brought the proposal about the consignment I was skeptical," Frank said. "But in the back of my mind I thought, 'Why would someone from the U.S. Army want to scam me?"
That's just the thing, isn't it? Some of these scams really do sound legitimate. And, unfortunately, most people don't discover that they've been scammed until it's too late.