Northern News Services
Friday, May 11, 2007
YELLOWKNIFE - Bed-and-breakfast owner Joan Hirons usually gives people the benefit of the doubt.
But a recent encounter with a scam artist stretched the boundaries of credibility.
Hirons, who operates the Island Bed and Breakfast on Morrison Drive, received what appeared to be a regular booking through her web site in mid-March.
The man making the booking called himself Terry Adams. While his Yahoo e-mail address was U.K.-based, Adams claimed he was currently residing in Nigeria and was looking for three days accommodation in Yellowknife, starting April 14.
"It looked like any other Internet booking," said Hirons.
But as their correspondence turned to the subject of payment, Hirons began to get suspicious.
"He said we would be sending a traveller's cheque by mail. The cost of his stay would have been around $200. But he wanted to send me a cheque for $500.
Hirons wrote him back, saying she wouldn't accept a traveller's cheque. The quickest way to process his reservation was to get his credit card info, she told him.
"He wrote back to say that -he didn't give out info like that, and that the cheque was on its way. He wanted me to wire back the $300 difference via Western Union to another person in Nigeria. He didn't say who this person was. He gave me the address. He said he needed the balance to pay for his plane ticket to Canada.
"I smelled a rat at this point. I had heard about scams running out of Africa. And plus, $300 isn't going to get you very far, is it?"
Hirons took her correspondence with Adams to the RCMP. The officer at the front desk looked at the material and said, "It's a scam."
The RCMP advised Hirons to stop communicating with Adams, but sent him one last email.
"I told him I wasn't buying it. There was no cheque. There was no reservation."
RCMP Constable Roxanne Dreilich said "there are many, many scams that originate out of African countries."
The most common scheme involves "the scam artist soliciting payment of taxes or fees in order for the target to claim this amazing amount of money, an inheritance or a lottery winning."
Dreilich advised anyone who receives such emails to treat them with "extreme caution.
"These things are extremely difficult to track from our end," said Dreilich. "There's little that can be done to recoup people's losses, so people have to be very careful about matters like this.
"If you have legitimately won something, you shouldn't have to pay any taxes or anything."
RCMP devoted a portion of its latest Mount Messenger newsletter to the subject of scams, referring people to such online resources as phonebusters.com, an online resource for people who suspect they're being scammed.