Internet Scams and Frauds
The PenPal Party was set up to help people find friends. Unfortunately, there are scam and con artists on the Internet who use a fun place like this to look for victims.
And that victim may be YOU!
Don't let that happen!
If you send money to someone you've met on the Internet, or give them your bank account number, or social security number (for US people), etc, understand that you will probably be ROBBED.
It's terrible to have to say that, and there are so many wonderful people out there that not everyone is a potential thief. However, these thieves are VERY smart, and sometimes will string you along until you think you know them before finally taking your money. Real friends don't ask for money.
One of our members has a suggestion about how you can make sure the person you're talking to is the age and gender you think they are: get Skype! Skype is a free download for your computer, and can let you talk to people and even see them via video if they have a webcam. You can download Skype by clicking HERE: http://www.skype.com/. (Note that people in some countries may not have access to webcams or high-speed Internet.) Penpal Party member Taylor says,
First I just want to say I made a lot of great friends online, talking to people in other countries is so great. I even have a best friend from Iran, and he is so amazing!! :) Well anyway, I e-mailed you guys a while back about a safety concern ... If you want pen pal party users to be safe, ask the pen pal to download a program called Skype. It has video and voice chat and you can talk for as long as you want as long as there is high speed internet. It should prove that the person is who they say they are. Please, encourage your users to get this program! It's totally free and virus-free.
These are common scams!
Some of the scams we've seen recently are as follows:
The "Work in our Hotel" scam
Messages come from a person who says they are in Canada and need people to work in their hotel. Generally, these messages come from somewhere in Africa (mostly Senegal, but Guinea Bissau seems to have started doing it also). The Canadian High Commission has warned against this, as stated in this news release: http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/jun2005-daily/19-06-2005/main/main10.htm. Remember to USE the link that shows what country your penpal is coming from!
The "I love you, really" scam
The person pretends a romantic interest in you, and then tries to get you to send them money to visit your country, get a manuscript or book published, get medical help, etc. Here's a note I received from someone who was scammed with a romance tactic:
Hello, I was scammed , but it wasn't by them asking me for money, it was a different kind of scam. First, he romanced me for 4 months, then asked me to cash a check for him, saying I could keep some of the money. For 4 months he pretended to be in love with me, we were to get married and I was to move to London where he said he lived. The scam check was for 27,545.00. I was to wire 25,000 to a Japan and Lagos, Nigeria, and send 2,000 by Western Union. When he didn't get the 25,000, he got mad and called the wedding off. Of course, he sent a very sexy pic, but would never get on a cam. For 5 months he did this. Then another man tried the same scam right after all this happened! It wasn't through an e-mail, he had instant messaged me from London, so he said. I was chatting in a US chatroom at the time. So, I hope you can warn other females.
Remember: emails sent through Penpal Party usually contain the Internet IP address of the person sending it. If the person says they're from one country, but their IP is from another country, you need to ask yourself why they would lie about that.
The "International Youth Conference" scam
The person pretends to be sponsoring or working with an "International Youth Conference" of some kind, and tries to get you to send them (or a partner) money for registration fees, hotel reservations, etc. Many times, it all looks very real and legitimate. Sometimes, they will use a name similar to that of a real International organization or NGO. Don't fall for it!
The "Help me get Millions out of the Country" or "Help me invest my money" or "419" scam
The person pretends to be a relative of a former dictator, prince, princess, or rich person from another country and asks for your help to get millions of dollars out of their country. They usually promise you a percentage of the millions. Once they get your phone number, bank account number, or other information, they drain your accounts dry and leave you hanging. Please read the US State Department's information about advance fee scams for more information.
The person pretends to have suffered a terrible loss, or a terrible illness, pretends to have a sick child, or little sister, or other family member, and begs for money to help them.
The person asks for money to help them attend school in your country.
The person says it is the custom in their country to send gifts, but never sends you a gift first.
Don't fall for the frauds!
If you are contacted by any penpal and it seems suspicious, let us know. If you have been defrauded, let us know the details so we can warn others!
Just, PLEASE, be careful out there, people! There are a lot of nice people, but there are a lot of jerks and thieves too.