(In the second of a two-part series, a look at the leading scams and how to save yourself major headaches.)
It could be called The Promise and The Plea.
Of course, you've been subjected to the following email, all in capital letters, which reads something like this:
MY UNCLE, (fill in the name), A MOST HONOURABLE MEMBER OF THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT HAS RECENTLY PASSED AWAY. I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE TO REQUEST YOUR ASSISTANCE TO TRANSFER THE SUM OF $49,800,000.00 (FORTY NINE MILLION, EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS) INTO YOUR ACCOUNTS.
And, on and on it goes, explaining, usually in those bold capital letters, the reason that you are to be on the receiving end of an enormous bonanza.
Then comes the "hook" and there always is one, which asks you to give "them" your banker's name, phone, etc., etc.
It's one of the less-than-subtle scams, which probably has plagued your email box on an annual basis, if not monthly. However, Audri and Jim Lanford of Internet Scambusters adamantly advise that not only such proposals are scandalous and criminal, they can be extremely dangerous.
These Nigerian (sometimes interchanging their nationalities to other suspect countries such as the Congo) creeps are never backwards in wielding violence to anyone who crosses up their schemes.
For as the Lanfords noted on their Scambusters' Web site: "In June of 1995, an American was murdered in Lagos, Nigeria, while pursuing a 4-1-9 scam, and numerous other foreign nationals have been reported missing."
While the Nigerian scheme is the most noticeable, the No.1 plague throughout the planet appears to be identity theft. These same scambusters have cited it as "the most frightening and least understood problems" in today's supposedly "smart society."
While the Lanfords claim it's a fairly complicated issue, they have simplied it in these terms: "Someone gets your name, address, social security number (SIN if you live in Canada) and credit card or other information and uses them to run up big bills, pretending they're actually you. They skip on the bills and leave you with ruined credit and collectors hounding you."
Of course, you've heard of people, who have lost their identity, and it's taken years for them to acquire some peace of mind, if ever.
Although there are dozens of rules to prevent you from having this disaster happen; there is a simple one: Keep an extra close watch on who sees your credit card; keep an extra close eye on your mail box; and keep a close watch on what you are offering as far as Internet information is concerned. That includes posting of your passwords.
In other words: Be skeptical and use common sense.
One shocking fact that the Lanfords brought out was that computer crimes only accounted for 11.6 per cent of all identity theft in 2004 with relatives, friends and even neighbours, or acquaintances of the victim, being the main culprits.
So identity theft often begins in the same place charity does -- at home, according to the Lanfords.
Although, we've barely skimmed the surface, there are others scams that could threat your sanity.
Just add the word scams to the following: Auction; contest; charity; corporate; government; hotel; insurance; investment; lottery; mail order; pyramid; religious; retail; sports; used cars; work at home and the list goes on and on.
JUSTICE NOT SERVED: In a December column, I wrote about Mengistu Haile Mariam, the vicious 'Butcher of Addis Ababa' who had been found guilty of genocide for his multiple crimes against the Ethiopian people. And at that time, the most pressing question had to be: Would he ever spend any time behind bars? On Thursday in Addis, he was sentenced to life in prison. However, as Mulugeta Aserate, a cousin of the late Emperor Haile Selassie, said: "This is a victory for Mengistu. These people should be sentenced to death for mass murder of Ethiopian citizens." However, the mass murderer, who ruled the ancient land with an iron fist from the mid-1970s to 1991, will likely never know the wrath against his Marxist regime, for he has been "holed up" in Zimbabwe, in luxurious surroundings and savouring the protection of that country's president, Robert Mugabe.