SOHO businesses beware of 419 scam

Written by Dan Blacharski on January 23, 2009

Spam comes in all shapes and sizes. Besides the traditional email spam, spammers target forums, blogs, and now, for the first time I’ve seen them targeting Web 2.0 B2B sites with a variation of the old Nigerian 419 scam, this one involving advanced fee fraud. Small businesses and one-man shops should take note and beware of this activity.

The miracle of the Internet has made it possible for me to work at home exclusively, running my small one-man shop from my home office whilst wearing a bathrobe and slippers. And the wonderful thing about it is that there are many more people like myself out there, who do the same thing. One of the marvelous Web 2.0 inventions that enables me to continue putting my name out there is B2B networking sites, which connect businesses looking for contractors for projects, and the contractors who provide them. As a writer, consultant and analyst, I make good use of these B2B sites and have often gotten great projects from them. But scammers too are seeing these Web 2.0 sites as a new target to find their victims.

Lately, there have been a lot of spammy entries on some of these boards, and one entry in particular that masqueraded as a legitimate company. I want to take this opportunity to let everybody know about it, especially if you make use of these B2B sites. I won’t mention the name of the B2B site in this posting, but it worked like this: The scammer posts a job on the B2B board for bid. Everything goes normal at first, with an agreed-upon payment in advance. Then, the victim gets a strange email from the scammer, stating an amount that is in excess of the agreed-upon payment, with instructions to send the balance via Western Union to a previously unknown third party in China. Of course, here’s how it really works: The scammer sends a counterfeit money order to the victim, who deposits it in his/her bank account, and then runs down to Western Union to send off the third party payment. After a few days, the bank returns the money order, recognizing it as counterfeit, but by then, it’s too late, and the victim is already out the money that has been sent by Western Union.

Web 2.0 innovations and B2B Internet sites have changed the game for SOHO operations for the better–but the popularity of these tools and of the work-at-home movement has made this a prime target for scammers like this one.

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