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Scam Detector Can't Work Magic but It Can Make You Smarter

By Patrick Nelson
Jul 20, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Scam Detector Can't Work Magic but It Can Make You Smarter

Scam Detector, an app from Scam Detector, is available for free at Google Play. "My esteemed colleague, it is with much reverence that I am humbly, yet secretly, contacting you to tell you of great fortune that has come my way. My most honorable relative has kindly left me, in his will, eighty gold bars. Unfortunately, due to circumstances, I have to regretfully sell on the gold to a trusted overseas beneficiary..." and so on.

Scam Detector

You've maybe received a variant of such an email, called "the Nigerian 419 advance fee email scam" -- 419 being a Nigerian Criminal Code related to fraud.

Nigerian 419 gets the scammed to send money, and is one of the oldest ripoffs in the books. Criminals have been using versions of the racket for hundreds of years.

These, and more than 550 other scams are now documented in Scam Detector, a just-released free Android app.

Space Age

The app isn't a detector in the classic "detector" sense. You don't whip out a scam detector-enabled device when you think you might be being diddled, then wave it around the alleged perpetrator, and accompanied by ethereal beeps, some kind of mysterious radio wave detects the scam. Android's cool -- but that really would be a scam.

This is a written compendium of known scams.

Scam Categories

The scams are grouped into broad categories that include automobile, face-to- face Internet and travel scams.

Subcategories include social networking, financial, employment, house and property, and online auction scams, among others.

Browsing Fun

Those categories make for fascinating browsing -- like you would do with a coffee table book. The scams are listed along with how they work, and tips are provided to avoid getting stung.

For example, a common "email quota exceeded" scam is listed, where a supposed Internet Service Provider writes to you along with a link. The link is a prompt to share personal information, including your email password. The app provides advice to look for bad grammar and the use of a "Dear subscriber" salutation, rather than your name.

Travels Well

A search function ties the Scam Detector app together. The publisher pitches the app as being suitable for traveling, and I can see how it could be useful in that environment.

For example, a search for "taxi," while sprawled on the back seat of what you think is one, after a disorienting flight, finds common ride tricks, including how to spot an unlicensed taxi -- you ask at the information kioskv--vand regionally specific taxi tricks.

Country-specific searches also provide regional swindles and steps to spot them.

I was unable to get the search engine to provide results for a specific country coupled with a mode of transport, though. You could search for "bus" or for the country, but not both terms within the same operand.

Technical Issues

Some gripes while reviewing included a tedious "application restart is required" error message that appeared frequently on launch on both the phone and tablet, and a lack of landscape orientation, which is irritating when tablet browsing.

There was also an obvious screen resolution issue on the tablet, although that didn't stop me reading. But rendering on the tablet was pretty junky looking.

Social Sharing

Social network sharing functions are included, as is a scam submission form.

Be sure you know how the scam is performed when submitting.

In Conclusion

Simply browsing the app alone was well worth downloading it. Not being a villain or a super-cop myself, I was unable to verify that all scams in existence were indexed. However, for a good read and entertainment value alone, the app was well worth a download.

Meanwhile, if you'll excuse me, I must go and pay the processing fee on the lottery I just won.

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.

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How do you feel about accidents that occur when self-driving vehicles are being tested?
Self-driving vehicles should be banned -- one death is one too many.
Autonomous vehicles could save thousands of lives -- the tests should continue.
Companies with bad safety records should have to stop testing.
Accidents happen -- we should investigate and learn from them.
The tests are pointless -- most people will never trust software and sensors.
Most injuries and fatalities in self-driving auto tests are due to human error.