Facebook scam casting its net
Fraudsters have found a fresh hunting ground - online networking sites.
It was only a matter of time, considering that the two largest - Facebook and MySpace - have around 200 million users between them.
Ripe pickings for canny conmen, like the crooks who say they've seen your picture and profile and you're perfect for a career in modelling or acting.
Naturally, there's a price, as Peter Sidnell from Tiverton in Devon discovered after posting his details on dating site Faceparty.
He was contacted by Rachel, who claimed to be from a promotions company called Trident that represents Coca-Cola. Rachel insisted Peter was wanted as one of their faces for a new billboard campaign at Heathrow.
DODGY PAYMENT: And dodgy spelling
After Peter expressed an interest he received a NatWest banker's draft for £4,700. Very nice.
But it came with a twist. He was told to pay it into his bank account, keep 20 per cent as his modelling fee, and send £3,760 to a so-called agent. Rachel didn't explain why Coca-Cola couldn't pay its own agents. Nor did she explain why a global company would insist on payment not by credit card but Western Union.
Money transfer companies such as Western Union are loved by fraudsters because they can collect their loot in cash without leaving a paper trail. Yet another mystery - Rachel claimed to work for a firm that represented a global brand, yet she gave a Yahoo email address.
She claimed to work in central London, but when we sent her an anonymous email it was opened in Nigeria. Which may explain why whoever filled in the cheque spelt "thousand" as "thounsand".
Then Rachel got pushy. "You will deposit the cheque tomorrow, it should take 2-3 days to clear so you should be sending the money on Monday/Tuesday next week," she ordered Peter by email. We showed the banker's draft to NatWest - it was counterfeit.
And a spokesperson for Coca-Cola said: "We have no knowledge of, or affiliation, with this organisation, Trident Incorporated."
At least Peter isn't surprised to learn that he'll not be the next face of Coca-Cola. He said "I was sure it was a scam, others aren't so lucky."
Equity knows of hopeful models and actors who have lost hundreds of pounds to cybercriminals who demand up-front fees to join casting agencies.
Vest Say's, they mainly target girls on MySpace and Facebook and tell them they'll be the next big thing, then they ask for money to join a so-called agency but never get any work.
The entertainments industry is a magnet for every third-rate crook because it so easy, it costs so little to set up these scams and they know they won't be penalised.
Get sound advice on any quick money dealings, double check or check at your local bank.
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