Fax Scams

Crooks have learned how to use fax machines to their advantage by employing underhanded techniques designed to con people out of their money.

Fax machines continue to be a necessary evil in many offices and businesses around the country. Many of us have a love/hate relationship with them. We can’t live with them, we can’t live without them. The truth is they serve an important function especially when it comes to satisfying the hard copy requirements for contracts, and other legal documents. They’re also a a handy way to order lunch. Unfortunately, fax machines can be used for nefarious purposes as well. Every business has its niche. So do criminal enterprises.

The following are a few of the many fax scams you may encounter.

Nigerian Fax Scams

Nigerian scams take many forms. The following are some of the most common Nigerian fax scams:

  • Offers to Purchase Goods or Services.

    This form of Nigerian scam involves either a phony order for goods or services or some other business offer including investing in a red hot new market prospect. The phony orders are relatively easy to recognize because they’re so generic. For example, you might receive a fax saying something like, “Dear sir or madam, we we like to purchase some of your products but had trouble using your shopping cart and would like to make arrangements for payment/shipment.” Did you notice how there’s no specific reference to any product or person? A scammer can send out thousands of these hoping for just one taker. If you respond, you’ll be told that they need to pay with a money order and ask you to ship something overseas. Sometimes they’ll send a money order for more than the cost of whatever was purchased and ask you to send them the overpayment back to them. If you tell them you want to wait for the check or money order to clear you’ll be offered an unlikely story that ends with “we need the money now.” If that doesn’t work, they’ll turn to threats like, “send us the money now or else!” If you don’t wait for their payment to clear the bank you’ll be out shipping costs, your products and any money you send overseas due to overpayment. That’s because way the money order (or check) will be counterfeit, the hallmarks of a classic Nigerian scam.

  • International Cash Transfer Schemes.

    These scams take many forms but they all have a common factor: moving incredible sums of money out of one country into yours through your bank account. The key idea is that they have a lot of money they need help moving from their country into yours. It’s usually illegal in nature and will smack of money laundering. Other times it may appear quite legal if a bit unusual and certainly generous from your perspective. Free money usually does. The fax will claim that the sender is an ex-government official or the son of a deposed dictator, an executive that’s embezzled vast sums or some other variation on this theme. Ignore these fantastic-sounding money transfer schemes. Their hope is that the amount being transfered into your bank account will make you drop your guard and it often works. Don’t let it. If you give someone making this offer the ability to access your bank account to transfer funds, have no doubt they will do just that and drain every penny from your account.

  • Business Opportunity Scams.

    Some Nigerian scams involve business opportunities. Most are outrageous and easily dismissed but you wouldn’t believe how many people get sucked into these things. Many are a lot like the International Cash Transfer scams mentioned above but are framed in the context of a business relationship. Some sound like geniune business opportunities a person might actually invest in. These are trickier to identify unless you’re good about doing your homework before handing out money. These scams often count on the fact that many people are either trusting or naive. Your best bet is to just ignore business opportunity offers that arrive via fax. Legitimate businesses don’t need to resort to such unusual methods. When did anyone have trouble finding a great business opportunity? The media makes its business evangelizing what they perceive to be good investment opportunities. Some Nigerian investment scams involve luring a prospective invester overseas either with money on hand or with the intention of kidnapping them for ransom. Another good reason to ignore these faxed in business offers!

Fax Back Scams

It’s not hard to guess how fax back scams got their name. This scam involves sending out faxes with offers designed to entice the unwary into sending a return fax to a 1-900 premium rate number. By “premium rate” I mean use of the line incurs a high per minute charge. Tricksters operating fax back scams squeeze the most out of people by requiring large return faxes and using slow responding fax machines.

Fax back scams take the form of contests, job offers, vacation deals, weight-loss programs and business opportunities. Think twice before returning faxes of this nature you may receive in your home or office.

Here are some tips on avoiding fax back scams:

  • Understand the nature of 1-900 calls and that using such a line will incur a high cost.
  • If the offer is time-sensitive or “urgent” just ignore it.
  • Be on the lookout for fax back’s to overseas phone numbers. These will really take a bite out of your wallet!
  • Ignore fax back requests without specific costs or fees. Just what are you faxing them back for? Send them a fax back and they’ll send you a brand new fax back request. Wait till you see that bill!
  • Shop around or search on the web in case there’s a better deal closer to home or anywhere for that matter. If the deal is too good to be true, just ignore it.
  • Read the terms and conditions carefully. They sometimes hold surprises.


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