This online security post is presented by Dashlane.
Remember the “Nigerian prince” who famously emailed financial requests far and wide more than a decade ago? It was a variant of the advance-fee scam, aka The Spanish Prisoner scam. Even just last year, Americans lost $700,000 to such schemes, according to security firm ADT. And it all comes to mind again with recent news of outlandish online scams originating from the same country. But how do these people manage to keep getting away with people’s money, information and identities? It makes you wonder how to protect yourself from online scammers.
Whether you need to protect yourself online from an elaborate scam from a foreign land or an unsolicited iPhone deal that sounds too good to be true (hint: it probably is), your best defense comes down to a combination of common-sense behavior and effective technology.
The Nigerians are still at it
In the infamous Nigerian prince scam, criminals posing as African royalty (or other officials) emailed people worldwide. Their spam missives implored the recipients to offer up their bank accounts as a safe place for a large sum of money, supposedly earmarked for a good cause but blocked from leaving the country. In exchange for the help, including “fees” paid upfront, the scammers promised potential victims a handsome percentage of the total sum. Fraudsters often got away with the fees paid. In some cases, they also drained victims’ bank accounts.
Cops bust two new scams
Versions of the scam continue to this day. But in recent weeks, news of two major new scams out of Nigeria came to light:
- In one, a convicted fraudster stole about $1 million while serving a 24-year term in a Lagos prison. An ongoing investigation indicates he had internet access, his phone and access to his wife’s bank accounts during incarceration. He also left the prison at various times, both for mysterious “medical reasons” and to stay in hotels and visit with family and others. Meanwhile, he targeted victims in various countries, relied on a network of accomplices, and managed to buy multiple homes and luxury cars. The jury is still out on this one, but some observers allege (shocking!) prison-system corruption. No comment from the Nigerian Correctional Service, but this guy is apparently a prince among Nigerian scammers.
- In another scam, 10 suspects from four U.S. states romanced numerous women online, defrauding them out of $1.1 million and laundering it. Most of the suspects hail from Nigeria. Seven have been arrested. Starting in 2017, they established numerous fake profiles on dating sites and social media platforms, building rapport with victims over time through email, texting and chat rooms. Then they would start asking for small gifts and money via wire transfer for a variety of made-up reasons. The size of requests increased over time. Though she never met her suitor, one woman ended up sending $546,000 in cash and goods.
How to protect yourself from online scammers? First, use common sense
A big part of protecting yourself online comes down to common sense. If someone approached you on the street with an elaborate story about how they need your bank account number or $500 in cash now (and more later), would you give it to them? Most likely not. No matter what. Same goes for messages that come your way online. Never send sensitive personal information or wire transfers to people you don’t know or can’t thoroughly check out. Recognize the situation for what it is. Don’t succumb to the temptations on offer (e.g., to help someone in need, a situation fraudsters design to make you feel good, or to get rich quick, designed to make you feel really good).
Second, use technology like Dashlane
Even better, make it hard for people to track you down or steal any information from you in the first place with Dashlane, the official password manager of Cult of Mac. You won’t find many more effective tools in the app toolbox to help protect your money and your sensitive personal information online.
As a password manager, Dashlane will create and recall powerful, unique passwords wherever you need them. That makes it easy to avoid one of the stupidest things you can do online: reusing a password. And, for all that sensitive information you’d rather not type or copy and paste from some backup document — address, birth date, Social Security number — you can auto-fill it from a secure digital vault.
Plus, if some website or service you’ve visited gets hacked, Dashlane will send you a security alert about the situation. The premium version of Dashlane also includes a virtual private network for safe, anonymous web surfing and a Dark Web Monitoring service that tells you when your information appears somewhere it shouldn’t. In short, Dashlane goes a long way to keeping you safe from would-be online scammers.
Price: Free, with premium subscription options
Download from Dashlane: Get a free 30-day trial of Dashlane Premium