Sounds not quite right? Too good to be true? Be alert for scams

Have you been approached by scammers? A scam may be defined as a dishonest scheme or a fraud.

I’m part of an online group of therapists and, during an online discussion, we discovered that two of us had received almost identical emails from an email address purporting to be that of a man seeking couple therapy. We were both aware of the possibility that this was not a genuine enquiry from the start.

This is how the potential scam developed. The enquirer said that he was from North America and wanted 12 sessions of couples counseling whilst over in the UK working. I had seen a couple from abroad in the past, so this sounded (unlikely but) just about possible. Anyway, I emailed a costing for 12 sessions, asking for a deposit to be paid in advance by electronic bank transfer. The enquirer replied they would pay by bankers draft, and a document purporting to be a bankers draft arrived through the old fashioned post, made out for a sum in excess of the deposit I had requested. The enquirer then claimed that their “associate” had sent the draft while they (the enquirer) were on holiday and asked for the excess to be repaid. I refused and responded that the bankers draft would not be processed, and that electronic payment of the deposit was necessary to proceed. There was no more contact after I emailed to the effect that this could be a scam.

As a therapist I am a member of online directories, which list my contact details. A consequence is that scams are a risk, and are sometimes quite sophisticated. Following the first attempt, I received another scam email through a therapist directory. I reported it to the directory and discovered that a number of other people had received the same scam email and also reported it. The perpetrators of scams like this could be anywhere in the world and only need the occasional person to fall for their lies to make it worth their while.

The internet is a wonderful resource, but like everything else it is susceptible to misuse and exploitation. We all need to maintain a healthy wariness in relation to unsolicited emails/ approaches.

In December 2015 I went to a lecture at the University of Chester on the topic of scams. The speaker talked from experience about the impact scams can have. Health and well-being may be affected. Older people might be particularly vulnerable. Research is being conducted into scams, including online dating scams (e.g. see this link). My colleagues at the University of Chester (read CAS news here) are exploring how people identify and deal with “scams”, as well as the impact being “scammed” has on the health and wellbeing of those who become victims.

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