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When Accepting Free Gold Bars Can Cost You Money

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Have you heard about the Nigerian prince who would like to send you his fortune for safekeeping if you’ll only give him enough money to execute the transfer? There are a lot of variations of this classic internet scam, and in all of them the victim ends up giving away lots of money only to find the so-called prince doesn’t exist. Apparently scammers are now using the rising price of gold to lure new victims with this old trick.

One of our readers was asked to “hold” some gold bars the scammer had supposedly found while serving in the military in Afghanistan. He told his would-be victim that he needed someone in the US to keep his gold safe until he returned from his tour of duty. All he asked for was a measly $1,000 to purchase a lock-box to safely ship the gold, and then he delivered legitimate account information for a bank in New Jersey where the funds could be deposited. Of course, he said he would be more than happy to pay her back with a generous bonus — as soon as he returned to the US and collected his “gold.”

Fortunately, our reader smelled a rat. The tricky part was that this wasn’t just an email exchange, but actually involved phone conversations. There is something reassuring about talking to a real person over the phone, rather than just getting anonymous emails. But our reader got suspicious when she discovered she was talking to someone on an Internet phone line and had no way of determining if the guy was really in Afghanistan.

On top of that, she recognized the most important red flag for ploys like this: if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. If someone does target you with a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” your best bet is to just ignore them, and block their number or email from your account. Eventually they’ll get bored and try their scam on someone else.

There are few reliable ways to check if the offer is a scam. You can call the authorities, but chances are they won’t be interested. In the case above, even the New Jersey bank declined to shutter the account of this known fraudster when our reader contacted them. Our best advice? If you come across an offer than sounds too good to be true, contact us and we’ll investigate.

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