Woohoo! I just won my grocery supply for the next year! With four hungry kids our grocery bill is a significant expense in our household. I can hardly wait to see those free groceries appearing at my doorstep.
I've been waiting for a week now but still nothing. I have given the nice people at the major supermarket chain all the detailed information they asked for. I even paid them that small amount of money they requested to have the legal contracts for my prize sent to me by courier instead of via the normal post so I could start receiving my groceries immediately.
The amount was nothing though compared to how much I am going to save over the next year. We will finally have that family holiday to some great spots in Australia that I have always dreamed about.
It has been two weeks now and I have tried ringing the supermarket chain but I must have written the number down wrong because the message says the number is disconnected. To make it more frustrating, the staff are not very good because when I rang the main switch number, none of the staff seemed to know what I was talking about!
I was having a clumsy day because I also wrote down the e-mail address wrong and I can't remember how I found the site.
I know it would seem fairly obvious to my readers that this is a scam - yet we have people every day, right here in Australia, falling victim to exactly this type of scam.
Two reasons. Firstly, the idea of an unbelievable prize is so alluring that it often masks common sense. The excitement of a large windfall or a free holiday is the focus for the victim and they definitely don't want to miss out.
Secondly, the scammers are very good at what they do. If only they turned their hand to more honourable pursuits...
The scams that work best have a great amount of attention paid to the details and the scammers have a good understanding of psychology. It is easy to setup a social media or Web presence but the 'best' scammers have accurate logos and contact information. You are hard pressed to spot anything out of place. By using legitimate contact details on a fake site, it gives it an air of legitimacy.
How do you navigate through this minefield to find if you are dealing with someone legitimate? Firstly, whatever you do, sprinkle it with common sense. Actually, douse it in common sense. Does it sound right? Is it too good to be true? Does something not look right?
Once you apply that aspect, then look for a few tell-tale signs. A file that ends in .exe or .zip that you are being asked to 'open' is a red flag. Requests for personal information when you haven't initiated the contact is a no-no.
Hovering over a link to see if it is a legitimate domain name before you click is also a good idea.
Oh, and did I mention to use your common sense? Definitely do that.
My dream is that we are vigilant in our interactions with scammers to the point that they give up and use their obvious talents to solve world peace or fix climate change.
Tell me if you have been scammed by sending an e-mail to email@example.com. The first one hundred e-mails I receive will win a six month round-the-world holiday for themselves and fifty of their closest friends...just kidding of course. I wanted to see if you were paying attention!
- Mathew Dickerson is the founder of regional tech and communications company Axxis Technology. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.