ST JOHN’S, Antigua – An alert has been issued by the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) amid a reported upsurge in electronic financial scams that has resulted in financial losses to some residents.
The ONDCP, in a release issued Monday, said the increase recorded over the past 18 to 24 months – primarily via the Internet – has been alarming.
While no figures were provided, the agency suggested that some cases of electronic fraud are likely under-reported because the victims are embarrassed.
It however, encouraged such individuals ‘to report cases of financial loss relating to online or electronic fraud to the ONDCP or the police.“
The office also said tracing the swindlers who send unsolicited emails, and Facebook, MSN Messenger and text messages, among others, have been difficult.
“The targets of these scams have been diverse and have included private individuals, attorneys-at-law and business firms,” the release stated.
“Our efforts to trace the perpetrators of the scams have been arduous as they often mask their true identity by utilising financial conduits and services which offer higher levels of anonymity.”
Some eight scams have been identified so far by the ONDCP. They relate to marriage proposals, advance fees, advance accommodation bookings, investments, cheque cashing, wire transfer, debt collection, and online banking.
“Many of the cases reviewed will appear to the inexperienced individual to be a valid income generating activity and in these financially challenging times, it is not difficult to see that persons can easily fall victims of these scams,” the office said.
The ONDCP has urged vigilance by people who are contacted by offers that “appear too good to be true.”
It also recommended six measures to avoid becoming victims of fraud, such as “Know who you are dealing with. If you have not heard of a person or company that you intend to do business with, learn more about them. Consult with your bank, an attorney, or law enforcement; be wary of persons who provide extravagant stories followed with a mutually beneficial offer.
“Make sure you fully understand any business agreement that you enter into; be wary of businesses that operate out of post office boxes or do not have a street address; be suspicious when dealing with persons who do not have a direct telephone line and who are never in when you call, but always return your call later; be wary of business deals that require your banking or other personal data.”