PHOTOGS - BEWARE OF SCAM!

Don't fall for scams. Do your homework, keep your private information private, and most of all, don't do anything without signed agreements.

The following is a scam e-mail that you should watch out for:

Hello,

I am Rev. Pastor Edwin Donko, District pastor of International Central Gospel Church, Greater Accra Region. I got your details from the USA tourism directory, we will be coming over to Hawaii, our silver jubilee wedding anniversary with family coming up on the 14th of February but we will be arriving on the 13th of February 2008. I will need the services of a professional photographer that will cover our entire vacation from the 14th through to 20th of February.

Could you please send me more details about your work and what the cost of your services for the 7 days coverage will be? ICGC GHANA will be paying you in advance of our visit as they will be covering the total expenses for our wedding anniversary so that we will be assured of a photographer during our stay. An early reply will be appreciated.

Please acknowledge if you can offer us your services and give me a call on my direct line (+###-###-###-###) as soon as you receive this email, so we can conclude on all other arrangements ASAP, as time is not really on our side.

God bless you,
Rev. Pastor Edwin Donko, ICGC GHANA.
Direct Line: +###-#########
E-mail : xxx@xxxxx.xxx

I received this e-mail yesterday from a guy who is in the employ of a church in Ghana. (first flag--most scammers will hail from somewhere outside the U.S.)

He's coming to Hawai'i just shy of two weeks from now and wants to hire me for a week-long event. (second flag--a rush to plan this event, and he's in a hurry to pay me in advance.)

He wants me to call him ASAP on his 'direct line' in Ghana to make other arrangements. (third flag--a direct call to Ghana is about $6/minute, and by other arrangements he intends to extract as much of my personal information as he can. In order to pay me, of course.)

Don't fall for these guys. They are pros and they can back up every bit of their scam story until the moment they get enough of your personal info to steal your identity. The church, ICGC, is real and with a real website you'd be tempted to trust him, right?

These types of scams almost always work the same way. You deposit the phony money. Then, what do you know? Oops, we have to cancel our event. Please refund our money we sent you! So you cut them a check for the same amount as theirs. No harm done, you'll break even when their check clears, right? Only it doesn't. The bank calls you and says no dice. Now the scammers are paid, and you owe the bank five large.

So what can you do to stop these guys? Not much. But you can slow them down. I came across a website dedicated to attacking scammers by wasting their time--www.thescambaiter.com. If these guys are involved in a conversation with you (a dead end since you won't give them anything), they can't spend that time fooling someone else. The idea is to get them chasing dead ends to keep them from focusing on other unsuspecting people.

Keep a weather eye on your inbox for these kinds of deals that sound too good to be true. They usually are. And above all else, never give out any personal information, especially through e-mail!

Have you experienced something like this? Do you have a story to tell? Let's hear it!

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