Oh, what a brave man “Micheal Awa” must be. He so wants to help Donna Rawson of Park Hills recover money she is owed. But if he gets caught, he will have to face the “Nigerian Mafia.” Even so, Awa is willing to risk his life just to help a total stranger across the ocean recover the cash in her bank fund.
“The only thing I will need to release this fund is a special HARD DISK we call it HB2/LT. I will buy two of it, recopy your information, destroy the previous one, and punch the computer to reflect in your bank within 24 banking hours,” Awa promised Rawson in a recent e-mail. “I will clean up the tracer and destroy your file, after which I will run away from Nigeria to meet with you. If you are interested, do get in touch with me immediately on receipt of my mail.”
So goes the latest tale Rawson – who has no such bank account – has received in a scam e-mail. Each version she receives of the “Nigerian scam” gets more creative.
“I don’t know how I ever got on this e-mail hit list,” Rawson said. “But if I ever get to Nigeria, I’m going to be wealthy. They have tons of money for me there!”
In the most recent version, the writer claimed to be Mr. Micheal Awa, a 35-year-old computer engineer with the Central Bank of Nigeria. He said that he came across Rawson’s file that was “…marked X and your released disk painted RED.” After studying it, Awa claimed, he found that Rawson had paid “VIRTUALLY all fees and certificate but the fund has not been release.”
The bank would never release the money without Rawson spending unnecessary money, he went on to explain. If Rawson sent her phone or fax number, however, Awa would be glad to see that the money was released and sent to Rawson.
No doubt, had she responded, Rawson would be asked to send money for Awa’s escape or some other expense.
An e-mail sent to Awa by the Daily Journal went unanswered.
Rawson said e-mails such as these are so ridiculous, they are obvious scams. She is more worried about scams that appear to be from legitimate banking institutions and could easily fool someone who is not “scam savvy.”
The latest was a message supposedly from Washington Mutual, claiming to be a security update notification alert. The body of the e-mail contained grammatical errors, but the contact information appears to have been lifted from Washington Mutual’s actual site.
The message read: “Dear Valued Customer : Washington Mutual is constantly working to increase security for online banking user. to ensure the integrity of our online payment system, we periodically review accounts. To lift up this restriction, you need to login into your account. You must confirm your information as wells. All restricted accounts have their billing information unconfirmed, meaning that you may no longer send money from your account until you have update your billing information on file. To initiate the update confirmation process. Please follow the link bellow an fill in the necessary fields. Click Here To Continue
Rawson has no accounts with Washington Mutual, but she does use automatic withdrawal from her bank to pay bills. Just for just a second, the realistic looking e-mail caught her off guard. Had she had an account with that bank, she might have answered the e-mail, Rawson admitted. But a closer look revealed the poorly written message.
“I don’t believe a bank manager would make these types of mistakes,” she said. “But you tend to trust your bank, and if I banked with that one, I might have fallen for it.”
Indeed, the message is an example of a scam called “phishing,” said Washington Mutual spokesman Shane Winn.
“This is something that all banks in the industry are victims of,” Winn said. “We have a page on our Web site that explains about phishing and tells people how to tell the difference (between scams and legitimate messages).”
Information on phishing and other scams is available at http://www.wamu.com/commercial/welcome/security.htm#emailscam.
The Web site includes tips such as:
€ Be suspicious of demanding messages.
€ Be cautious of downloads.
€ Always type in the URL of the Web page you need rather than click on a link on the e-mail.
€ Protect your password.
€ Keep your computer up-to-date.
€ Report an online scam to authorities, including the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org; www.consumer.gov/idtheft*; or 877.IDTHEFT (877.438.4338).
€ If you are tricked into providing personal or bank account information, contact the financial institutions where you have accounts.
The Daily Journal has made a commitment to keep readers abreast of scams that hit our area. If someone tries to make you the victim of a scam, call us at 431-2010 and tell us what happened. We will include your story in our scam alert series to prepare others who may find themselves in the same situation.