Help a Saudi Prince, Won’t You?

Help a Saudi Prince, Won’t You?

I don’t need to tell the story about all the Saudi princes who have emailed all of us over the years, promising vast millions. If I DO need to tell you about these and other online scams, then congrats, because you’ve avoided the internet for this long and your sanity is intact! No need to get on it now!

Over the last calendar year, we’ve seen the rise of chat and chat phone apps. The ones you may have heard of include Kik (150mm users), WeChat (400mm users) the Facebook-owned WhatsApp (500mm+ users) and, of course, SnapChat. There are dozens of others.

chat app

Facebook Messenger Screenshot

More recently, we’ve started to see some actual commerce getting infused into the chat experience. Back in December, the press was abuzz with the news that you could book an Uber car right through your Facebook Chat Messenger thingy (see screenshot of my Messenger app). Seems cool, but you can also see some good specifics of that experience here after a friend of mine tried it.

Regardless, that was a long-winded intro into what I am NOT talking about today. Sorry. That’s bad journalistic practice, I know. My point was that chat is getting huge and it’s inevitable that more and more commerce-enabled functionality is coming.

This can only mean one thing – more Saudi prince types mucking up your clean, fun chat apps. Get ready, because it’s already here.

Case in point – last Friday afternoon. I’m at work, setting up some ad campaigns on Facebook and I see that red Pavlovian notification dot on my chat, so immediately, like a dog, I go click for my treat.

I see my aunt has messaged me.

Now, let me say this before I go any further. I feel like I have a pretty good bullshit detector when it comes to online fraud and spamming. I’ve been doing this digital thing a while now, both at home and at work. But this one, at least for the first 2-3 back-and-forths, got me good. Here’s the exchange.

online scams

I was totally buying it until the “oh lol ok” part (not like a 70 year old aunt to say such a thing). Then it abruptly turned into a “winning money” and investment question. Then I knew for sure this wasn’t my aunt, but I let it go another couple of lines because I wanted to know where it was going.

I immediately checked this person’s Facebook profile and it was completely blank, confirming it was a spammer. Part of me felt dumb for even believing it for those first couple of lines and in retrospect, “hope they all fine” should have been a small giveaway, but people mistype all the time.

Oh well. This is the first time I’ve been hit up like this on Facebook Chat – and I suspect it won’t be the last.

Wherever there’s a positive online commerce trend happening, there’s an ugly duckling trailing behind. It’s inevitable and has been happening since commerce was invented. As technology and the internet progress, it’s actually fascinating to see how scammers dream up their next pickpocket schemes.

My aunt, she’s fine. She caught wind of it and posted a beware message.

You – be careful out there!