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Faux Faxes

With an old but not forgotten technology, thieves angle for your money

The letter reaching Americans in many parts of the country this month has all the familiar features of a classic Nigerian scam: a supposed overseas official or political leader, claiming to be from Nigeria or some other African country, asks for help in moving a fortune from a foreign bank account into yours.

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But there’s a key difference: The letter arrives by fax.

The 305-word missive from “Jumai Abdullah” has made headlines, sparked warnings from police in several states and even warranted an editorial in a North Carolina newspaper.

After all, who uses fax anymore? And why would a scammer do it when email provides greater reach and anonymity?

The answer: Because our email in-boxes may be flooded daily with Nigerian letters, online pharmacy ads, work-at-home schemes and phony government grant opportunities. We ignore them. But an old-fashioned fax generates special notice.

Just ask any of the numerous citizens who contacted police after getting “Jumai’s” fake fax. They all had the same question: Can this be true?

Of course not. There’s zero chance you’ll ever collect the promised multi-million dollar commission. If you respond, the people running this kind of scam demand you wire them cash upfront for so-called fees or taxes. Once you wise up, you never hear from them again. Your money is gone.

Scammers can send fake faxes en mass via “broadcast fax” services that use the same technology as “robo” phone calls. Automatic dialers phone hundreds or thousands of numbers at once. If a fax tone is reached, the transmission goes through.

And by paying for these services with stolen credit cards — or capitalizing on free trial offers — the crooks can hide their true identities as easily as they do with free email accounts.

So if you happen to receive a fax from Jumai Abdullah, do the right thing. Tear it up.

You may also like: Outsmart scam artists.

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