The life of South African leader Nelson Mandela inspired people across the globe. Unfortunately, it also inspired scam artists, who are using his name to lend credibility to a variety of email cons.
How the Scam Works:
You you receive an email, which claims to be from Nelson Mandela's Donor Relations Manager. The message describes the fundraising and charity work done by the "Nelson Mandela Fund." Then, it asks your help in setting up a new branch of the charity, which will receive donations from a British company. This part of the email reads:
"[Mandela] has suggested that the fund allocated to his organization from the UK Based Anglo American Minning Company should be directed to a responsible and a reliable hand not here in South African but other country as well."
Answer the email, and you are likely to find yourself part of a fake check scam. This is where con artists send you a fake check, ask you to deposit it and instruct you to immediately wire all or part of the money. The bank won't catch the fraudulent check until after the wire transfer goes through.
As always, watch for variations on this scam. In another version, the email sender claims to be Nelson Mandela's granddaughter. On his behalf, she is giving out $2 million dollars to ten lucky people. You just happen to have been selected. You can claim the cash if you reply to the email ... with your name, address and Social Security number (US), Social Insurance number (Canada) or other key identifying information.
How to Spot an Email Scam:
Email scams aren't going anywhere. The best way to protect yourself is to learn to spot the warning signs:
- Don't believe what you see. Scammers make emails appear to come from a reputable source. Just because it looks like a credible email address does not mean it's safe.
- Be wary of unexpected emails that contain links or attachments. As always, do not click on links or open the files in unfamiliar emails.
- Be familiar with typical scams: Read through BBB's "Top Scams" to familiarize yourself with con artists' most common tricks.
- Check the communications policy: The Nelson Mandela Foundation and most charities do not send unsolicited emails. If you have never interacted with an organization and receive a one-off, suspicious email from them, it's probably a fake.
- Report fake emails to Mandela's official foundation: If you are aware of any scams being perpetrated under the Mandela name, please forward the email email@example.com.
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