By William Francavilla, Special for USADT
Well over $100 billion dollars is lost to con artists and scammers each and every year here in the United States. The theft comes disguised as “too good to be true” offers or “fear” based communications. Typically the correspondence arrives via email (or regular mail), robo calls, or knocks on the door.
And the sad news is by some estimates, this alarming figure is grossly underestimated.
So what’s going on and more importantly, how do we inoculate ourselves from so many miscreants who are resolved to steal our money? The average American receives 19 unsolicited robo calls per month. Even if they’ve subscribed to the national Do Not Call list, the calls keep pouring in.
So where do the calls come from and who’s making them? And can we protect ourselves and our families from falling prey?
The calls are literally orchestrated by criminal organizations that are well trained to separate people from their money. One such group based in India had 700 telephone operators who stole over $300 million from unsuspecting, fearful Americans who thought the calls were actually from the IRS demanding past due payment of taxes.
The AARP tells us that the six most prevalent scams are romance, home repair, Grandparent’s scam, investments, health care and charities. Discerning the honest offers from the dishonest takes some initiative.
Simon Lovell, the 20th century’s most prolific con man (self admitted) tells us that he loves it when people tell him, “I can’t be conned,” because “In my mind, they are already half way to being conned.” He bilked thousands from hundreds of people “too smart to be conned” and having spent time in prison he writes and speaks forewarning others.
So perhaps the first inoculation includes looking in the mirror and telling ourselves, “I’m pretty smart but I can indeed be scammed!”
Secondly, let’s all admit that as humans we are vulnerable to emotion driven decision. When an offer appeals to our greed (chance of big returns) or fear (the call from the IRS or we are about to be arrested because we failed to report for jury duty) let’s take a deep breath.
Thirdly, defer any important decision 24 to 48 hours. Take this time to educate ourselves about the offer. I recently listed a car for sale on Craigslist. I received no fewer than three offers to buy my car sight unseen for the full asking price. Hmmm… with a few key strokes I found out that this is a common scam using PayPal where the “buyer” has stolen a PayPal account and promises to deposit funds into my PayPal at which time I can deliver the title. Delivery of the car would take place later. The only problem is that the stolen Paypal money becomes the seller’s responsibility once the funds are reported stolen.
Caveat Emptor, my friend, the bad guys are good at deception so heed my advice.