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online scam

Online Scams and Fraud

mike-cit-teamHi, I’m Mike. I’m part of the “Geek Squad”, Intertel’s Cyber Investigation Team (CIT). If you’ve been scammed or defrauded online, then chances are we’ll be the guys helping you identify, locate, monitor and interdict those responsible. We work closely with and provide intelligence support to other Intertel teams, the various banks’ fraud investigation teams, local and foreign law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, in our common goal: to bring cybercriminals to justice and to recover the losses suffered by our clients.

You’ve just been scammed……now what should you do?

If you’ve just been scammed then you’re probably at DEFCON 1. The adrenalin has your heart pumping, and your mind is racing. You’re somewhere between panic and rage. You know that you need to act quickly, but you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do. We know what needs to get done, and we’ll happily walk you through the process. Just read on. First, we know that nothing we say now is going to make you feel instantly better, but you need to know that you will get through this, and you need to trust us. After all, this is what we do, day in and day out, and we’re excellent at doing it. If you want the very best chance of recovering your losses and bringing the culprits to justice then you need to do the following:

Get your game-face on

game face The first thing you need to do is get your head in the right place. You’re not going to be much help to anyone, least of all yourself, if you’re not thinking clearly. Take a deep breath, drink a glass of water and prepare yourself for the first battle: getting yourself out of the funk and into action. If you’re struggling to get your into then try these tips to help you relax, focus and get motivated.

GGive yourself a breakThis wasn’t your fault. Successful scammers are masters of human behaviour and deception, and nobody is immune to manipulation. Given the same situation and circumstances, this could have happened to almost anyone.
AAccept that it happenedStop playing the events through your mind, thinknig of how you could have done things differently. You can’t change the past. Focus on what needs to be done now.
MMake up your mindMake a decision. Are you going to act or not. If you are, then get started. If not, that’s cool. Just don’t end up doing nothing because you never decided to – you’ll probably end up regretting that.
EExcuses are for sissiesDon’t look for reasons to fail, give up or to not even try at all. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’ll prove yourself right in the end.
FFocus on one thing at a timeDon’t try do it all at once because you need to give each step your best effort. Start at the beginning and work your way to the end one task, one goal, one success at a time
AAct now, procrastinate laterTime is against you here. Every minute you waste is another minute you’ve given the scammers to cover their tracks, run, hide and spend your money.
CCreate impetus/build momentumKeeping the investigation progressing will require effort, but the more momentum you can generate (by keeping at it and involving others), the easier it wil be.
EEducate othersIf someone had told you about this scam, would you still have been scammed? Chances are that you wouldn’t. You can get stick it to the scammers by helping others avoid the same fate.

Don’t let the cat out of the bag

let the cat out of the bagWe get it, you’re pissed and you want the scammer to know just how much they’re going to regret having scammed you. Well, don’t. Don’t let them think you’re aware that you’ve been scammed. If they already know (because you’ve told them) then you’ve lost a major advantage. Whatever you do, don’t make any further contact until you’ve decided which plan of attack to launch. Yes, it will probably be hard for you to bite your tongue and act “dumb”, like everything is okay, or that this has just been some misunderstanding, but here’s why you absolutely have to:

The moment they realize (or believe) that they’re blown, they’ll have no reason to keep their cell numbers, email addresses or other lines of communication open. They’ll scatter like cockroaches, and once they go to ground or disappear into the woodwork, the odds of success plummet.

The fact is that they’re not going to give your money or your possessions back voluntarily no matter how much you threaten or plead with them. You really don’t have anything to lose by playing along – just for a while.

Let them think that you buy their excuses even when you know they’re bullshit. The dumber they think that you are, the better. We’ll cover a few strategies further on.

Write it all down

You need to get everything down on “paper” (or on your computer or phone or wherever) as soon as possible. Find a secure, convenient place to start recording all the facts and any other information that might be relevant. Write everything down, no matter how insignificant you think it is. Just be mindful about keeping things in some sort of order – it will make things easier for you and others will be more likely to help you if they see that your notes are organized and that you have put some effort into this. The simplest way is the W5H Technique…

W5H Technique

This technique is as old as the field of investigations. It involves answering the 6 fundamental questions: who, what, when, where, how and why? The ‘why’ shouldn’t be your focus at this stage. You’re mostly after the who, what, when, where and how. Below is a sample as well as blank forms in Microsoft Word and Adobe PDF format to get you started.


Need a scam or fraud investigated but concerned that it might cost more than it is worth?

  • Send us all the information you have and we’ll assess it at no cost.
  • We’ll send you a preliminary report addressing the information you provided as well as a plan of action for further investigation
  • We’ll also provide you with a no-obligations quote to have the matter investigated further

Report the matter

Get in touch with the authorities, the company or institution that handled any payment or delivery, the website or hosting company that was being used by the scammers and any community-based organizations that have an interest in combating online or other fraud. It obviously depends on the circumstances and the nature of the scam, but generally, with online fraud, you’d probably want to report the incident to the following parties.

The Police

Whether you want the police to investigate or not, you have a civic duty and legal responsibility to report criminal activity. If everyone kept quiet about crimes then police management wouldn’t know exactly how extensive a particular problem is and as a result wouldn’t be able to allocate the appropriate funds or make suitable training available to the police. Everyone but the criminals would lose.

If you want to open a police case

Opening a police case requires you to visit the Community Service Center (“charge office”) at your local police station. If you have no transport or are not mobile then call the police station and explain your situation. Don’t call 10111 or 112 because those services are for emergencies. If you don’t know the local police station’s phone number then use the app on this page to find it. This is the general process:

  • A police official will interview you to establish whether a crime has indeed been committed.The police official will then open a docket and will ask you for your personal details.
  • You will be asked to provide a statement. Remember that this is a sworn affidavit, so be completely honest and stick to the facts. If you don’t know something or if you’re not certain about something then say so.
  • The police official will then register the case on the police’s Crime Administration System. You will either be given a CAS number at that time, or a CAS number will be SMS’d to you in due course. The CAS number will be your reference number and must be quoted whenever you enquire about your case.
  • The case will be assigned to a police detective who will contact you to discuss the way forward. From this point, the detective will handle the investigation. We advise complainants to keep in contact with the investigating officer, but not to pester or attempt to manage the investigative process. The detective will be working as quickly as circumstances allow. He or she cannot simply leave a case for no good reason, as each case is inspected at least weekly by a superior officer.

Just a word of advice: don’t take your frustrations out on the police. That won’t get you anywhere. Common courtesy and respect will. If you feel that you’re going nowhere at the Community Service Center/Charge Office then escalate the matter. Try remember that the purpose of escalating a matter isn’t to embarrass the person you’re dealing with or to get them into trouble – its to find the appropriate person to help you. Thank the police official for their time and say something like: “I appreciate your willingness to help, but perhaps I should speak to [insert person’s name or role]. Could you arrange that for me or could you tell me how to go about it. Its important to me that [the person] doesn’t think that i’m not happy with your service (leave this out if the service has been poor).”

Typically you’d follow this route from the police officer at the Community Service Center up the chain of command:

  • CSC (“charge office”) or Shift Commander
  • Station Commander
  • Cluster Commander
  • Provincial Commissioner
  • National Commissioner

But you might rather want to try an alternative route from the Community Service Center:

  • Detective on call (Station)
  • Detective Unit Commander (Station)
  • Fraud Unit (Station/Cluster)
  • Fraud Unit Commander (Station/Cluster)
  • Commercial Crime Unit (Cluster/Provincial)
  • Commercial Crime Unit Commander (Cluster/Provincial)
  • Provincial Head: Commercial Crime (Provincial)
  • Divisional Head: Detective Service (Provincial/National)

Facilitators and Unwitting Participants

The bank, website, hosting company or any other person or organization that played a role in enabling the scam to take place should be informed. Depending on the circumstances your reasons for getting in touch with a facilitator or unwitting participant could be because:

  • they are likely to possess or know of the existence of evidence that may be of value to any investigation of the scam. That evidence may be required for use in a criminal or civil trial and should therefore be preserved.
  • they may have knowledge of other victims or additional information regarding the perpetrators which could assist investigators in breaking the case.
  • they have an ethical (and possibly a legal) duty to understand how their services were exploited so that, where possible, suitable measures can be put in place to prevent or minimize the likelihood of their services being exploited by criminals in future.
  • they may have insurance or other coverage in place for such an eventuality and may be in a position to compensate you for your loss.
  • you may have a legal duty to inform them or be required to inform them before a criminal investigation or other process can proceed.

When dealing with any company or person, be sure to keep a detailed record of who you’re talking to, the date, time and even duration of your call or meeting, what was stated, requested or promised by each party and any other relevant information. This may form part of your evidence in future so keep it well organized and accurate. Below are downloadable templates for a communication log.

Get professional help

Get in touch with a professional so that you can get advice that is tailored to your particular case and circumstances. Know what your rights and responsibilities are, what options are available to you, and what the best course of action is likely to be. It needn’t cost you an arm and a leg. Intertel, in fact, will assess your case for nothing. Our cybercrime investigators will evaluate the information and evidence that you have, looking carefully for ways in which it can be exploited to identify and arrest the perpetrators. Once your case has been assessed, you’ll be provided with a report that will set out a plan of action. You’ll know how much it will cost, what will be done and how likely it will be to succeed. There are no obligations, so you’ll have nothing to lose by getting in touch.