Email purporting to be from Western Union claims that you have been approved to receive the sum of $1,500,000 in the poverty alleviation program for 2016. The message claims that you will be payed in daily installments of $7,600 via Western Union and should contact the pay-out department for more information on your ‘prize status’.
The email is not from Western union and you have not won any money whatsoever. This is a typical advance fee scam designed to trick you into sending your money and personal information to cybercriminals.
According to this email, which claims to be from money transfer service Western Union, you have been approved to receive the sum of 1.5 million US dollars as part of the poverty alleviation program for 2016. Supposedly, your prize will be paid in daily installments of $7600 via Western Union. The email includes the Western Union logo and the familiar yellow colour used by the company. It instructs you to contact the pay-out department via email or phone to get more information about claiming your unexpected windfall.
But, alas, the email is not really from Western Union and you are certainly not set to receive 1.5 million dollars.
In fact, the email is a typical advance fee scam designed to trick you into sending your money and personal details to cybercriminals. If you fall for the ruse and contact the pay-out department as instructed, you will soon begin receiving requests to pay various upfront fees that are supposedly required to allow processing of your prize. The scammers will claim that the money is to cover expenses such as banking, taxation, and legal fees . They will warn that, if all of these supposed fees are not payed in advance, you will forfeit your claim to the prize money and it will be awarded to somebody else. They will explain that the fees cannot be paid out of the prize money itself under any circumstances. And, they will continue to ask for more and more of your money until you either run out of available funds or finally realise that you are being conned.
When the scam has run its course, the criminals will simply disappear with your money.
And, to make matters worse, the criminals may have managed to gather a large amount of your personal and financial information, supposedly as a means of verifying your identity and allowing the transfer of the prize. They may later use this accumulated information to steal your identity. Or, they might sell your information to other criminals who will in turn use it for identity theft.
Advance fee scams like this one have been around for many years. Nevertheless, people all around the world still fall for them. Be very wary of any message that claims that you have been awarded a large sum of money in a lottery, promotion, award program, or grant that you know nothing about and have never signed up for.
Last updated: May 5, 2016
First published: May 5, 2016
By Brett M. Christensen