FRIDAY, MAR. 23: The Department of Consumer Affairs, the Bermuda Monetary Authority and the Bermuda Police Service have recently come together to raise consumer awareness of three financial scams targeting local residents - phishing, pyramid schemes and the passing of counterfeit Bermuda notes.
While we do monitor a variety of scams that can leave consumers financially disadvantaged these three in particular appear to be more prevalent than others in Bermuda.
Pyramid schemes come in a variety of forms but the main characteristic of a pyramid scheme is that participants only make money by recruiting more members. The only way for a pyramid scheme to work for everyone is if there is an endless supply of new members and in reality there isn’t.
It is mathematically impossible and when the business is unable to recruit new investors the money stops coming in and the business collapses.
Phishing — also called ‘carding’ or ‘brand spoofing’ — is an online fraud scam used to steal your personal and financial information such as credit card numbers, bank account information and passwords.
These hoax e-mails can look genuine, using the company’s logo and format, and a link which leads to a website that seems genuine, but isn’t.
E-mails from genuine banks don’t include links.
The sole purpose of this scam is to conduct illegal transactions on your account and steal your money.
In addition to stealing personal and financial information, phishers can infect computers with viruses and convince people to participate unsuspectingly in money laundering.
Another growing problem in Bermuda is counterfeit Bermuda currency being circulated, specifically the legacy currency series printed between 1994 and 2000.
Counterfeit bills can range from poor quality to those that resemble the real thing.
The key is to know what to look for and if you receive them do not try to pass them on, instead contact the police.
There is quite a bit of useful information on counterfeit currency on the Bermuda Police Service web-site www.bps.bm.
It is difficult to determine the exact amount of people who fall prey to these scams because most victims of scams are embarrassed and often keep this information private.
However, it is a fact that scammers are enjoying success in Bermuda.
How do scams succeed?
Primarily because they can look like the real thing and they manipulate you or “push your buttons” to get the response they want.
Additionally, a lot of people actually believe that get rich schemes work — if that were the case these schemes would be closely guarded and they wouldn’t need your money.
Here are a few tips to avoid being scammed
Take the time to educate yourself on the various scams out there and understand how they work, especially pyramid schemes and phishing.
Don’t make a financial decision until you have done all of your research thoroughly.
When you are doing your research, be objective and pay attention to your instincts — remember, if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.
Don’t trust companies or websites you don’t know.
Anyone can set up a web site and make it look like a legitimate business.
Don’t feel obligated to return the favour if a scammer gives you a gift; they are relying on you to feel like you owe them something.
Don’t feel like you are missing out because of limited supply, available space or time will run out. Scammers like to pressure you to act ‘now’.
Don’t be fooled by official looking letterhead, celebrity endorsements or testimonials — check to make sure all of this is credible first.
Remember, when you are making financial decisions use your head and not your heart.
Separate your emotions and base any decision on solid credible information that you have researched thoroughly.
Don’t be afraid to get assistance from someone you know that is credible and can help you make a decision.
If you suspect you are being targeted by scammers, contact the police.
The Department of Consumer Affairs has compiled information and tips to help protect consumers from becoming victims of pyramid and phishing scams.
These tips are located on our web-site, www.ca.gov.bm or you can contact our office for a copy.
Other agencies that provide useful information on protection from fraud are: The Bermuda Monetary Authority, www.bma.bm/consumers and the Bermuda Police Service, www.bps.bm.
Honey Adams is the education officer for the Department of Consumer Affairs.