RECENTLY a family member, who I will call Mary, sought my help.
She is on the full single pension but cannot live on it.
She soon came up with the idea of taking in a boarder so went to www.gumtree.com.au and placed an ad online. She was amazed how quickly she received her first response.
It came by way of an email from a Rosalyn Bryant, who said she was presently in Malaysia, and would be attending a university in Australia. She said her father would be paying the rent and he would like some information about the potential landlady.
Mary responded that she was a widow who lives alone, the neighbourhood was quiet, and the house was clean and comfortable.
The next email was from a John Bryant who said he was the father. He wrote that he could not make phone calls as he was a marine engineer at sea, but was really grateful that Rosalyn would be staying in a good home because her mother had been killed in a car accident last year.
By this stage Mary was becoming suspicious, especially when they asked her to send $900 to a travel agent named Tanabalan Rajindaran for the girl's airfare.
Mary then received a barrage of emails, all purporting to come from PayPal, confirming that a deposit of $3100 was being held and would be paid to Mary the moment the travel agent confirmed receipt of $900 for the fares.
All it took was a Google search on Tanabalan Rajindaran to find over 3000 posts about scams of a similar nature.
Mary is now seeking a boarder in the more conventional way, but her experience is a lesson to all of us. The internet has revolutionised the way we transact business but as the story above shows, it is also fertile ground for a whole new range of confidence tricks. Be warned!
Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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