Friday 21 March 2014



Wondering what to blog about, I realised the topic was staring me 
in the face, in the shape of emails in my spam filter.

Scams and Scammers

We all have a good laugh at the emails that come through, especially from Nigeria and Berkina Faso, often telling us they're from the Bank of Africa. To most us, they're obviously false and have given me the opportunity of posting on Facebook "how grateful" I am for the generosity of their originators in Africa.

Hundreds of thousands receive scam emails every day and 99.9% know to have a good laugh and delete them, especially if there's an instruction to download a form, unfortunately the other 0.1% believe that someone they've never heard of on another continent wants to make them a multi-millionaire with no risk.

So let's look at who is taken in by the scammers, who are the scam artists and what scams predominate. 

Who could be so silly as to be taken in? When you think about it, it's obvious and sad:-
    - The greedy
    - The gullible
    - The very poor
    - The desperate
    - The very old.
Other than the greedy, all the above are the last people who can afford to lose any money they have to scam artists. It's not unknown for desperate people convinced they're on the verge of solving all their financial problems to borrow money they can never repay, or even steal. Their lives were bad before, and after the scammers have finished with them their lives are frequently destroyed.
To the scammers it's a numbers game and the people behind the scams are no better than drug dealers in the destruction they wreck on their victims.

Who are the scam artists? 

That's simple....they're scum. Simple. Many of the email scams originate in Africa and frequently in Nigeria, where the government passed what is known as the 419 scam law trying to stop  the "Advance Fee Payment" scam. They've had little success, partly I suspect because the Nigerian government itself is notoriously corrupt!Russia also has its share of scam artists and in fact many of the databases used by the African scammers are "owned" by Russian crime syndicates that act as a Post Office for the Africans. In other words the Africans give the Russians an email they want sent and the Russians send it out to a large mailing list for a large fee..... in advance!

What scams are there?
- The Advance Fee scam, usually from Nigeria and Berkina Faso, offers their victims untold riches because of:-
    a) A minor clerk in an African bank has found a large sum of unclaimed money lying dormant as a result of a client's death.
    b) An African woman dying of cancer has nobody to leave her vast wealth to.
    c) Just occasionally a US soldier returning from Iraq has a large amount of gold bullion stashed away and needs your help.
    d) A 3rd world millionaire wants to send his daughter to the UK for safety and to further her education. You will select a university and look after all her money, taking a large percentage for yourself.
    e) A 3rd world millionaire wants your help and advise on how to invest his money in the UK with you as partner.
    f) You have inherited a large sum of money from someone who happened to have the same name as you.... so you might as well have the money.
    g) The FBI on behalf of the Nigerian government has authorised a large payment to you in compensation for all the hassle you've had with scammers (relatively new and a clever spin)

The scam is that as soon as you email a reply all of them will say there's one small technicality (probably legal) and a small amount of money needs to be paid to facilitate the transfer of the money to your account. This is usually around £200.
Unfortunately if you pay that (usually by Western Union as it can't be traced), another payment will be requested to cover local bank fees, lawyer payments, border controls, inter-bank transfer fees etc, etc. Any hesitation and the scammers will remind you that you're only 24 hours from becomg a multi-millionaire. Each fee request tends to be for a larger amount, and once hooked victims find it difficult to break away.

The HMRC rebate scam.
This is relatively new and involves an email offering you a rebate from the HMRC. The amount is small at around £250 and all you have to do is download a form, complete it and return it by email.
Except.... the HMRC never send emails and certainly never ask for your bank details!

The Rusiian / Chinese on-line shop scam.
This usually comes as a web link in an email that frequently comes from a friend whose email address list has been hacked, so it might even look genuine. Your "friend" will say that it's a geat site to go to for fantastic savings on all sorts of goods. Amazingly if you click on the link it will take you to a really professional shopping site offering all kinds of high-value goods at very low prices. The scammers say that they can offer these prices because of bankrupt stock, low taxes in their country, they've found a way of avoiding border taxes, etc etc. Three things happen when you order:-
   a) The goods never turn up, and Russia's a long way to go for a refund!
   b) The goods (or a box at least) turn up and are worse than defective, and probably deadly.
   c) Your credit card / bank account is raided.

The "Help me" scam.
When the scammers have highjacked someone's email contact address list, they send an email to all his contacts pretending to be him. They say they've been mugged and had their money, cards and all identity stolen and they need to pay a hotel bill now as they have to catch a plane home. They're desperate and need your help. Send money by Western Union.... etc.

So how can you recognise a scam?
- Terrible spelling
- Terrible grammar
- The fact that the email's "TO" has no name against it, even though the scammer has sent it to you particularly.
- There's a form to download requesting personal details including everything to do with you bank account and passport.
- A request to send them a copy of your passport, or identity paper.
- Any request to send money through Western Union because it's untraceable and irrevocable.
- The absence of the little padlock showing the site is payment-secure.

- Why would any foreign millionaire want to give you a fortune with no strings?
- Why are so many clients of the Bank of Africa dead?
- Why haven't the directors of the Bank of Africa realised that so many of their junior managers are suddenly multi-millionares?
- If the scammers sent you this personal email why do they now need to know your name and address? Surely they must already know it.

The rule is that there's no free dinner, so don't be one of the 0.01% and get scammed!
There are many more scams, and as fast as they get closed down, new ones jump up to attract the greedy, the unwary, the desperate and the vulnerable.

Blog on, Dudes!

Sunday 2 March 2014

People's Book Prize 2014 (update)

"And the winner of the People's Book Prize 2014 in the Children's catagory is....."


Actually we won't know until the votes are cast, counted and the result announced in late May, but that's plenty of time for me to bite my fingernails down to the quick! You can vote twice...  now, until 20th May for the finalists to be decided, and again between 20th and 27th to decide the actual winner.

The People's Book Prize was founded by Beryl Bainbridge and currently Fredrick Forsyth is the main patron. It is unique in that the winners are voted for by members of the general public, rather than a small panel of publishing industry experts. In other words YOU decide by voting.

The prize is only open to published, rather than self-published books and all books nominated are put forward by the publishers rather than the authors. My publisher, Crooked Cat Publishing, nominated Leap of Faith in the Children's catagory. My thanks to them!

So here's the point. I need your help! 
Please go to the link below and vote for Leap of Faith. PLEASE! And get your friends to do the same. Please leave a comment if you can. You don't have to buy a copy to be able to vote, because the first 3 chapters are free on the voting page.... but it would be nice!

Many thanks.
Blog on, Dudes!