‘Prince from Ghana’: Insurance agent befriends his would-be scammer

Scam calls have become a pervasive and costly nuisance in recent years, parting Australians with record amounts of money in 2021 by exploiting the pandemic.

Scam calls have become a pervasive and costly nuisance in recent years, parting Australians with record amounts of money in 2021 by exploiting the pandemic.

Almost one-third of the $211 million that Australians lost to scams in the first three-quarters of 2021 was taken through these fraudulent phone calls, which also accounted for more than half of complaints made to Scamwatch during the period.

While the best way to protect yourself from scams is to screen your phone calls for unknown numbers and never give out personal details, one American’s unique approach to handling a scammer has captured headlines in recent weeks for doing precisely the opposite.

When insurance agent Stephen Ira Adams, from Louisiana, took a call from a would-be Ghanian scammer named Prince Anderson five years ago, he instead chose to have an earnest discussion.

“I said to him, ‘What you’re doing right now is a scam. You know, you are targeting elderly Americans and it’s not right’,” Mr Adams told US news outlet CBS.

Rather than simply confront the young man, Mr Adams extended an olive branch and asked Mr Anderson to call him back once he had clocked out of work for the day. Mr Anderson did exactly that.

During their conversations, Mr Adams learned that Mr Anderson did not know what his employers were actually doing, and had simply taken a job hoping to support his ailing mother and young brother following his father’s passing.

Following Mr Adams’ advice, Mr Anderson quit his job and began working at the local airport before later finding work with a private security firm, while Mr Adams offered support in the form of medical and educational assistance from afar.

Now, five years after their first interaction, the two stay in close contact – Mr Anderson’s younger brother even visited Mr Adams’ family after moving to the US to study.

“The kind of love he showed me, the things he sends me, the money, and the care and love with my mom and everything – the love he showed me, it’s overwhelming,” Mr Anderson said.

Safety first

Although things ended pleasantly for Mr Adams, many Australians’ interactions with scammers end in financial loss – in 2021, $63.6 million was siphoned out of Australians’ wallets via their phones.

Often, scammers will pretend to be working for trusted businesses and institutions like Amazon, or even branches of the government and leverage that trust to gain access to their victims’ money.

“Scammers are pretending to be from companies such as Amazon or eBay and claiming large purchases have been made on the victim’s credit card. When they pretend to help you process a refund, they actually gain remote access to your computer and steal your personal and banking details,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said. 

“In August, the new Flubot malware scams masquerading as fake voicemail and parcel delivery scams exploded, which have resulted in more than 13,000 reports in just eight weeks.”

Since May last year, the amount lost to scams has increased significantly, and Scamwatch is urging Australians to remain vigilant.

Scamwatch said consumers should be cautious about dealing with strangers making contact out of the blue, and take the time to research the person they claim to be (and even reverse-search any photos they have) to verify their identity and intentions.

Consumers should also avoid opening emails and texts from people they do not recognise, avoid giving out personal information, and importantly hanging up on suspicious phone calls, especially when the caller asks for remote access to devices. 


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