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My name is Mark Fenton and I specialize in investigating online crimes. I am a Senior Investigator at Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc. I oversee and manage the OSINT Intelligence Division focusing on anything related to the Internet; background checks, locating individuals, corporate due diligence and personal online safety.

When I worked in the Computer Crime Unit one of my side projects was tracing fraudulent emails.  I was curious about who was behind them and why people kept falling for them.  The emails I am referring to are the “Work from Home”, “I Have Won the Lottery and I Need to Get $50 Million Out of the Country” scams.  We often laugh and ask, “Who would fall for these?” I think the answer would surprise you. 

I spent six months researching who was behind these emails and I learnt that many of them originated from a few cyber gangs out of Africa.  It wasn’t just “ordinary people” who fell for these scams.  The more sophisticated ones would target lawyers, doctors and realtors.  There were many times when I was stopping wire transfers of over $500,000.00 to these fraudsters and these professionals had no idea they were being scammed.  They never met the scammer; they never spoke to the scammer – all they did was communicate by email!

I quickly determined that the people who fell for these types of scams fell into 1 of 4 categories: the lonely, the desperate, the gullible and the greedy.  And the number one reason why they fell for these scams? They never laid eyes on the person. As humans, we rely on our evolutionary survival instincts, such as visual and auditory clues, to help us determine if a person is a threat.  When we read an email we do not get to hear a person’s tone of voice or watch their body language – the very things that warn us if someone is a danger to us.

When people ask me, “How do I know if I’m being scammed?” I always respond with, “Ask for a video meeting.”  Scammers do not want their face on camera. They will make up all sorts of excuses as to why they can’t meet online: “My camera is broken,” “My Internet is bad,” “My computer is old.” This is a major red flag and should be the number one indicator that you are about to get scammed.

Like the old saying goes, “There is no such thing as free money!”

If you’ve been the victim of online fraud or suspect that someone may be trying to scam you, we can help. Contact us today!

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