Have you ever been scammed? In the old days, for which we can only feel nostalgia, there was the kind of gentle bustle of Three-Card Montes on the streets of New York, the infamous Florida swamp sales and penny- stock guaranteed to land a bargain. Sometimes back then there was the more sophisticated scam phone call from a relative you may not remember who loved your mother, remembers her name and, by the way, desperately needs money for emergency surgery.
Oh, it goes on and on. Getting caught in the web of fraud sometimes reflects our own greed. We want to make a lot of money without working for it, and we are willing to be fooled into thinking it can happen. Some of us are also remarkably gullible. We have “sucker” written all over our backs, and there are people ready to take us on.
There were the notorious Ponzis and Madoffs and people like Anna Sorokin, who posed as an heiress to dupe wealthy friends, and, of course, legends like Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, who wanted to be the next Steve Jobs but instead faces sentencing in September for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.
Grifting has always been part of the American landscape. Sometimes a certain romance has been associated with big cheats, a reluctant nod to their ability to run a scam. Victims rarely appreciate this side of the crime. People in our own communities have suffered life-changing losses because of the crimes of Bernie Madoff.
What revolts me is the epidemic of cybercrime. Every day, if not multiple times a day, we receive emails and text messages that attempt to trick us into revealing vital information that can then be used to steal identities, gain access to bank accounts, and harm our financial stability. It’s organized and it’s sophisticated. Despite all of our double-checking routines and firewalls, the bad guys keep knocking on the door.
Among my various ticks and tocks, I’ve never included paranoia, but I’ll admit that lately I’ve become suspicious of almost everything that happens to me online. There’s a random text from someone I know but haven’t spoken to in a few years. “How about getting in touch?” it says. It could be an authentic text, but probably not.
AOL writes to me almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day, saying they will close my account on a certain date if I don’t respond immediately with various information the company needs. Bouchwa! I get calls from insurance ‘specialists’ and Medicare ‘advisors’, blue chip bank card alerts and Yahoo Yahoos, and someone in the UK who wants to send me 20,000 $, and someone else writing, “Confirmation Needed Immediately”, and text messages from my real credit card company, saying there’s a hold on my card, except there’s no isn’t, and I have to call the company to find out the text isn’t from them.
I think it affects your sense of security in the world to always fend off fraudulent attacks.
We’ve come to accept fake news and alternative facts, but the online scam feels personal. Don’t we all want to trust our community? Apparently, the sweeter, sweeter days of the unlocked door are over. Hypervigilance is our default mode.
Lows of lows have come out since Covid. According to Phishing.org, people are sending emails posing as representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency offering funeral money for family members who died in the pandemic. There’s a catch: you have to give them personal information or send them money to get the money. It’s a scam. There is a real FEMA funeral program, but this one offers money without asking.
After every national tragedy, after mass shootings, hurricanes and floods, there is always a bloom of fraud across the country. People seize the opportunity to enjoy the grief and loss of others.
According to www.Phishing.org, beware if:
• You have “won the lottery”.
• You recognize the sender, but it’s someone you’re not talking to.
• A message sounds scary or tells you to “act now”.
• A message contains unexpected or unusual attachments. They may contain malware, ransomware or another online threat.
Scammers and fraudsters are often smart enough to make money the old-fashioned way, but that’s not how they roll. Their reward is the free ride, passing the “mark”.
Be careful there, my friends.
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be contacted at [email protected]