One Born Every Minute

For evidence of the theory of natural selection at work in a digital world, you need look no further than the most recent study from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI reports that the number of fraud complaints, requiring law-enforcement agency action, has tripled since 2001, estimating the loss to victims of reported Internet fraud as being $54 million in 2002, a significant leap from the $17 million in the previous year.

Other than rocketing levels of identity theft, which a television documentary, this week, will also expose as a growing problem in the UK, one crime that continues to attract the legions of the credulous is the Nigerian ‘401’ advance fee fraud’. In the States, 16,164 people seriously believed that a relative of one or other of an honour role of dead African dictators, was prepared to deposit several hundred million dollars of non-existent government money in their bank account in return for a 20% commission and as a consequence, lifting the stupidity figures up 500% from 2001.

In the UK, we aren’t quite as gullible as the Americans, bless them, but the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), reveals that 150 of our less gifted citizens fell for the scam last year, for a grand total of £8.4m. This news goes some way towards explaining why I receive at least one of these email offers each day and sometimes two. Given their quantity and frequency, I rather suspect that Internet fraud now represents the Dark Continent’s most profitable source of eBusiness revenue, by several orders of magnitude.

To be honest, unless it’s from a known and trusted source, any offer I receive over the Internet goes into the trashcan with the rest of the spam, which is, as we know, a huge problem in its own right. You might have thought that nobody with an ounce of intelligence would respond to or even vaguely trust the source of the rubbish that arrives in my inbox each day but they do and they continue to be taken to the cleaners in ever-increasing numbers.

This probably says more about human nature than it does about the technology but talk with the law enforcement agencies and they will tell you that the Internet represent the new ‘Wild West’ for organised crime and the Inland Revenue. The drugs cartels, in particular, I’m told are ‘investing’ heavily in Internet portfolios because eBusiness is good business and rarely if ever, carries twenty years to life if you’re caught. More likely three months probation and the confiscation of your Server if they can find it that is.

So, my advice and I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted, is ‘Trust no one’. Nothing is what it seems and if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Meanwhile, I’m glad to see that Iraq still has some Internet connectivity remaining as I have an email from a certain Farouk Al-Bashar from Iraq, who tells , that his “family has acquired huge sums of money from royalties for the exploration of oil in our region “ which they managed to keep hidden from “Saddam Hussein and his gangs of bandits”.

Farouk would like my bank details so he can transfer the money to my account for safekeeping, in return for a generous commission and between us, we can help rebuild his country and his family’s fortunes. This offer looks genuine to me what do you think?


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