Service of Scams

June 3rd, 2013

Categories: Automobiles, Scams, Suspicion


When I hear about or observe outrageous scams or ones that are easy to fall for I share so word gets out, which is an effective way to defang such swindles.

The worst of the latest crop preyed on students by offering them internships at the United Nations Centre for International Development (UNCID) in Geneva, Switzerland. The student who told me about it originally heard of the opportunity via her university’s career services department. “It was just like any other email/job posting that we receive,” she said. Others in her class also applied and a longtime professor remarked at what a superlative opportunity this was.

She was accepted by the fraudulent program and received medical record, internship allegiance and employment offer forms and documents that she was to sign and return via a special email address.

FishyWhat alerted her to the fact that this otherwise legitimate sounding internship was fishy? Her sister mentioned to her that there is no organization called U.N.C.I.D, her first clue.  She then checked out the names of various people who signed or were mentioned in emails. None came up in a Google search, nor did any have LinkedIn profiles nor did they appear on the U.N. website.

In addition, the employment offer, signed by a Dr. (Mrs.) Jennifer Hudson, Intern Coordinator, noted a $4,125/month stipend. She told me, “The UN doesn’t pay its interns.” [Do real people sign their name Dr. (Mrs.)?]

When I saw the stationery used for the employment offer—she sent me all the documents–it looked clumsily handmade. The letterhead was crammed up against the UN logo, another tip of the dubious nature of this offer.

I couldn’t figure out what the scammers had to gain by receiving a batch of signed documents from students. My young friend said she read in an online forum that they would next ask her for money to cover her airline and living expenses. I shudder to think of other nefarious outcomes of young people arriving abroad, alone, in the hands of people with shady intentions.

These timely cons seamlessly intrude in ways that make perfect sense. Here are two more.

SurveyAfter we leased a new car I received three requests to take a survey. The first one, from General Motors, I responded to. Another came by email a month or so later and the third, supposedly from J.D. Power and Associates, through the USPS at the same time. Before doing anything I contacted Barry Lang, our General Motors salesman. [I wrote about his spectacular service a few months ago.]. He suggested I ignore both which, with the corroboration of my nephew who is in another part of the car business, I did. Neither man liked the sound of these requests. Tip: The one from J.D. Power came with a sweepstakes offer for a $100,000 prize.

Have you noticed scams like these that we should know about? Has the prevalence of such behavior changed the way you respond to opportunities and requests for information? Think that there are more cons than ever before?

scam alert 2

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9 Responses to “Service of Scams”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    The student scam falls under the “too good to be true” category, which was picked up by an alert potential victim. The university Career Services gets a big black mark for not checking job offers out before posting them.

    A new blow to criminals is a site called “Instant checkmate” which comes up with millions of criminal records. A membership is required, and I am not sure about costs, but it could pay if one worries about a person they are dealing with.

    Then there are all the potential scams, which appear in email mailboxes by the ton daily. The list is too long and boring to mention. That’s what the cyber trash can is for.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What I think shook up this student–you are right, this person is extremely smart–is falling even if only halfway for the scam.

    God help those who aren’t as informed, who don’t have a family member familiar with the UN, etc. etc.

    She immediately told career services so that since her discovery, all the students were warned.

    Apart from an attempt to fleece students, I resent, as I am sure they do, the time the scammer stole from them, not to mention dashing hope.

  3. Atticus Finch Said:

    Thank you for this informative post.

    As a past victim of several scams, pre-internet and post, what concerns me the most about internet “white collar” crime is:

    First, the degree to which it is immune from detection and prosecution, and,

    Second, the implications of internet misinformation or malfeasance for the continued viability of a free society maintained by and under a “Rule of Law,” and more importantly, the threat embodied in it to the very survival of Western Civilization.

    The intern scam has the earmarks of an origin in a former British colony, but will anyone bother to go after the perpetrators, who, if caught, would be highly unlikely to be punished anyway? Nobody will do anything about that mess any more than the U.S. military will do anything about the Chinese government stealing its secrets, or than Western authors will get paid a single farthing in compensation for the theft of the hard work they put into their books, which are being pirated.

    The danger is that as the thieving becomes worse, which it will, and nothing is done about it, which it won’t and can’t be as a practical matter in a civilized country, law abiding internet users will rebel, organize into vigilante or lynch mobs, take the “Law,” which isn’t working, into their own hands, and go “get” the “bad guys” themselves. That’s how dictatorships get started. The “mob” takes over, but they don’t; it is the few that control the mob that do, and what better way to spy on and control innocent people than to use the internet!? I’ve lived and worked in dictatorships. They are not pleasant.

  4. Dhanya Hemanth Raj Said:

    Really like your work! It’s very informative and hope that it will help others who receive such dubious offers.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    We are so primed for takeover as millions of people lay all their information out for all to hack into on the web with zero security–they pay bills through the Internet, deposit checks to their accounts via mobile phones not to speak of describing their lives and those of their children on social media outlets from Facebook to Pinterest.

    Famous people don’t allow photos to be taken of their children to protect them and now Joe and Jane Doe are giving ammunition to potential predators without a second thought. Police warned people leaving for vacation or extended business trips to cancel newspaper delivery and make arrangements for someone to pick up their mail or for the post office to keep it so as not to alert burglers that nobody is home. Facebook photos posted in mid-trip to Hawaii or the Jersey shore are far easier for robbers to see–they don’t need to leave the comfort of an armchair.

    Last week a librarian shared a scary use of Facebook by debt collectors who call friends of the debtor which they now know thanks to this social media resource. She got such a call.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Thanks. I also hope that people learn to vet any opportunities before they pass them along to others or that they make very clear to associates, friends, members, students or whomever that they have not done so and that they don’t know the person who provided the information, if that’s the case.

  7. Kathleen Fredrick Said:

    Such scams are all too prevelant, so much so that even large companies are alerting customers to be on the lookout for scams.

    The very day I received this post, I received a bill from National Grid, including a flyer with this alert entitled “Be aware of a new utility customer scam.” It read, “We’re warning customers of a new, nationwide utility bill scam. As part of the scam, customers receive a phone call from an individual respresenting themselves as a utility employee and demands payment, through a pre-paid card, on past due balances for utility accounts. They may threaten customers that their service will immediately be shut-off for non-payment. In some cases the caller also tells the customer that they may have a faulty meter that is dangerous and needs to be replaced for a substantial fee.”

    National Grid urges its customers to call Customer Service if they receive such a call. I guess the best advice is to question any phone call or e-mail asking for money in any way, shape or form.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Wow, Kathleen,

    Thank you for the alert on this.

    What gives me goose bumps, along with reading your experience with National Grid, is that these scammers are also hitting the US Postal Service–the questionable J D Power letter I received was via standard mail and in it was a typed link to goodness knows what–I wasn’t willing to find out.

    As a New Yorker I’ve prided myself for being street smart and a touch cynical–but my training doesn’t begin to prepare me for these clever minds up to no good. If there are drugs for paranoia, I’d buy stock in them as so many of us are going to become paranoid!

  9. Lucia Melgar Said:

    Thank you for posting this , A student of mine just received a letter from UNCID and was going to change her professional plans to take advantage of this incredible offer. I had heard of such scams and thus have been looking for information on the web. It is just the same case as the one you mention. A French professor recommended applying to this internship opportunity.

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