So I have this family member I’m going to call Notalie for the sake of anonymity. Notalie is a wonderful person going through some issues of their own, like most people. Sometimes they send me messages like – “have you seen this?” “what do you think?” and the latest, “have you seen how to make insane amounts of money?” (well something like that).
Well, having some amateur experience in trading stocks, foreign exchange and crypto, I had to check out this magic trading bot hosted on the companies servers.
This magic had been toted as “being on Shark Tank”, but the episode had supposedly been pulled, otherwise everyone would be millionaires in days. One of the ‘Sharks’ had supposedly opened an account with the minimum starting capital on the show, and within minutes made $80 and more than doubled his account by the end of filming.
Let’s break down how I was scammed.
First up, their company website has one of these types of account sign up boxes normally reserved for mailing lists on blogs.
I started to feel a little uncomfortable about this type of unofficial sign up, but hey, different country, different companies.
This should have been my next red flag. The article I read mentioned Australian servers, but it was the Mirror I was reading.
It was The Mirror wasn’t it? Nope! It was a website that had the same logo as ‘The Mirror’, the UK online news site, but just called Mirror. I didn’t catch that until I was writing this article.
The site even had News Politics Sport Etc… across the top like you’d expect from an online newspaper.
So I filled out boxes, because I wanted to change my life today!
I was forwarded through to a nice looking page where I could click on charts and see I didn’t yet have an account balance. Not surprising, as I hadn’t given them my credit card details, yet.
I received a phone call from the UK within 30 seconds of logging into their secure site.
Well, I didn’t get time to read the finer details of the site, the woman (I’m going to call Charlatan) kept talking me through setting up my account, asking questions like “what’s my normal profession?” “how long have I worked in that for?” then “how old are you?” Besides the first question, she wasn’t going to get any answers out of me.
Well then, it was a rush to get me to the payment page. She even emailed the link to me instead of using the link in the secure portal. The link is a Gateway SAP page, and whether the page is actually an official SAP website, I’m Not Sure.
This woman kept me on the phone so I didn’t have time to read their website, didn’t have time to research or read reviews from other customers and kept talking over me.
The ‘Mirror’ article had said the company name had been one thing, but their website used a different name, and I even wondered if I was signed into the correct company portal. The website name rhymes with Monopoly, and I thought she was saying Monopoly over the international line.
I reply with, “I’m not playing Monopoly, I’m trying to read your website.”
Well, I spent almost 30 minutes on the phone with Charlatan being pushed here and there, still not having time to read the site details.
And now for the Gateway SAP link. Charlatan says, “I’ve just emailed the link to you, fill out the details.”
“But I’m Not Sure. I need to read more about your services.”
“Well, you have 7 days to get all your money back if you don’t want to stay with us. If you click here, you can see the nice page that says withdrawal.”
They always say, “now what do you see?” just to make sure you’re wallet is ripe, I mean to see if you’re on the right page.
Finally, I get a word in sideways.
“I would like to do some reading, and some research on your services.”
“But you get the 7 day refund! No questions asked. I use the platform myself.”
So the questions I was thinking was, why are you still working on a cold-call centre and not filthy rich as your service suggests? Second, why do I deposit my money in as Euro’s but when I press withdraw, it comes to me as United States Dollars?
It took about five minutes, but finally I got that dog doodie off my shoe, I mean Charlatan off the phone.
So the research? How did that go?
All the pages I visited, the reviews I read all had wonderful statements about them, some actual review sites had a mixed bag of 4, 5 and 1 stars.
So people either like the product, or they hate it for one reason or another.
Then it clicked, all the review sites were like ‘Mirror’, hacked up reviews on ‘review sites’, and all of them had a sign up here button.
Their main page even has a red bar along the top like this. Wow – that’s urgent!!! Hurry!! The clock on the end ticks down from six minutes every time you visit the site.
This is a well used marketing technique that forces you into making an impulse decision. They know if you have time to go away and think about it, they’ll lose you, so they add the sense of urgency triggering the FOMO response – Fear of Missing Out.
The other phishing technique they employ is persistent cold calling. Once they have your number, they’ll hound you until you give in.
I got another call from Australia this time – Potential Fraud – so I ignored it, then an hour later, another call, then a Suspected Spam, then the next call didn’t have a tag, so I answered it.
“I am Con Artist (again, not their real name) from Monopoly you enquired about earlier today.”
“Oh, I’m not interested, thanks.”
“But you filled out the information this morning.”
“Oh, arr, yer. My situation has changed.”
“How can your situation change since this morning?”
I hung up on Con. I wasn’t going to be spoken to like that. How rude!
When my phone notified me of a message later this afternoon, (because I’m waiting for some calls) the first thing I did was go click on the MMS to download the voice message.
Oh damn. The MMS says Suspected Spam. Quick, disable the wifi and mobile data and delete the message.
My phone finally gave me the toast notification saying the message failed to download.
That was lucky. I have no idea what could have been in that 4kb message.
Australia has some good consumer protection laws. You can ask the ACCC for your money back and they’ll ask a bunch of questions, then fight to get your funds back.
When dealing with an overseas company, they can’t do that to the full extent and just mark you down as some poor bastard who got scammed and lost money. You become a number on the ‘scammed by XXX database’.
Don’t even put your name down on these types of lists, unless you have a burner phone and an email address you don’t care how much spam you get.
This was a very elaborate scam and I can see how people can easily get caught up in ‘the moment’, pressured into handing over payment details.
I didn’t lose any money today, luckily, but it does go to show how even the I.T savvy could get netted. So, it wasted more than two hours of my day, and I’ll probably be fending off emails and calls for many more years to come. But if my experience serves for anything, it’s a warning to anyone reading this, stop and think before acting, do your research on the company and don’t get scammed.
Now it’s time to overhaul my computer, checking for any nasties.
EDIT: 2nd December – DO NOT sign up with Monafoli or Immediate Profits. They will never leave you alone. From what I have read, they provide profits for you in the first seven days “money back guarantee” but lose your money after that, then ask you for more. It seems like a pyramid scheme.
I have been called by robo callers since I put my name down, and every number I block. They keep calling from new numbers. The robo call I had this afternoon, there was a delay while someone picked up the call.
I have told them three times to remove me from their database, but they keep asking why? What’s wrong? You signed up to our…
I have called them a scam and yelled at them to stop calling me, but they won’t stop. The next time they call, I won’t be as nice. I have lost my patience with them.