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Internet, Phone, and Fax Scams.

If you receive an e-mail, fax, or phone call promising a quick return with minimum investment, it is probably an investment fraud. If you receive a letter with the e-mail sender claiming to be an official of a foreign government, it is more than likely a scam to get you to send money. There are many other Internet schemes, and one of the best ways to protect yourself is to simply click on delete. "Very few people nowadays fall for these things. But every once in a while, we get someone who will send them some money," said FBI Special Agent Chris Hoffman.

The FBI's Guam office gets an average of one call a week from a resident who has received an e-mail offering them millions of dollars in exchange for a couple thousand, Hoffman said. And though these e-mails may seem like scams to many, several people on Guam have actually lost sums of up to $10,000 by following what these e-mails request, Hoffman said. The FBI Hawaii Office released information on a recent investigation into Internet fraud.

"The most popular schemes seem to be inheritance schemes where they will contact someone and say, 'We think someone in your family has passed away and we need to liquidate property,'" Hoffman said. "Of course they want taxes to pay and things like that in order to get this multi-million dollar property."

The FBI also receives many calls on lottery schemes, in which people are chosen to win a lottery and are asked to pay taxes on the winnings before the money can be released, Hoffman said.

Then there are the investment schemes where they need someone to help them open an account or start a company. He said the sender of the e-mail claims to have all this money and they just need someone in a U.S. Territory or in the United States to form a company in which they can assist them and start investments.

Most of the schemes are generated from places like South Africa and Nigeria, Hoffman said. But the scam is growing in other places, including Indonesia and the Philippines, he said.

"Some of the money is actually requested to be wired sometimes to London and often to Canadian cities such as Toronto and Montreal," Hoffman said.

'Buyer beware'

The calls the FBI office here receives are usually from people who are on the verge of sending the money or making an investment, Hoffman said. Several of them, however, have already sent the money.

"Most of them we were able to avert by talking to the person and saying 'looks like a scam,'" Hoffman said.

But many times, the e-mails tell the receiver to be secretive about the message.

"Most of the victims, if they run it by a friend, a banker, a law enforcement officer, they will quickly find out that they are being scammed," Hoffman said.

He said when the FBI office on Guam receives reports of people losing their money to these schemes, the cases are forwarded to a multi-agency, international task force that investigates these types of cases. But even if suspects get arrested, people seldom get their money back.

"Usually their money is long gone," Hoffman said.

He said there are online sites that people can check if they want to find out if an investment opportunity is legitimate. Residents can do a search on "Internet fraud" or "Internet schemes."

"There (are) lots of Web sites that go into great detail of what kind of schemes are out there," Hoffman said.

Attorney General Douglas Moylan said his office has received about five complaints within the past six months regarding Internet financial schemes. All the complaints have been forwarded to the FBI.

"Our recommendation to the public is, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is," Moylan said. "Caveat emptor -- it means buyer beware, and it is an overall statement that consumers must be vigilant against schemes and deals. They offer the world but end up returning nothing."


To learn more about Internet fraud or to file a complaint, visit the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center at

To learn more about identity theft and to report suspicious activity, visit the Federal Trade Commission's Web site at


Identity theft occurs when someone gets someone else's personal information without their knowledge to commit other thefts. Typically, crooks disguise their e-mail to look like it was sent form a legitimate business. This e-mail may resemble a request to update a billing, an account or membership information. Unsuspecting victims unknowingly then divulge sensitive, personal information which is used by crooks to commit other crimes like credit fraud. This fraud is known as a "phishing" scheme because the criminal is "fishing" for your personal information.

Nigerian scams

Nigerian letter and/or e-mail frauds have particularly strong lures to unsuspecting victims. First, the crook impersonates himself as the self-proclaimed government official of a foreign government. Second, the e-mail appeals to the "Good Samaritan" as a plea for help and assistance. Third, the letter of e-mail promises the victim a share of millions of dollars that the official is trying to transfer out of the country. The scheme relies on convincing victims that they must send money to the official for the payment of taxes, bribes to corrupt officials and legal fees.

Investment frauds

These frauds can take many forms. The one thing they have in common is that they lure unsuspecting victims with the promise of a quick return with minimum investment. These frauds are also known as "Ponzi" schemes, pyramid schemes, "Prime Bank" guarantees fraud, advance fee schemes, telemarketing frauds and securities/commodities frauds.


The following are a few simple precautions that can help reduce opportunities for scam artists:

Use common business sense. Verify the identity of persons involved. Legitimate companies are willing to provide you with additional information.

Do not give out bank account, Social Security and credit card numbers to strangers over the phone or over the Internet.

Store personal information in a safe place.

Shred all credit card receipts and old financial statements.

Protect PIN numbers and password.

Carry a minimum amount of identifying information.

Beware of unsolicited e-mail and Internet sites that ask for personal data. If you get an e-mail that warns you, with little or no notice, that an account is about to be closed, don't reply to the e-mail and contact the company directly via telephone to verify your status.

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