By William Francavilla, Special for USADT
The next phone call you receive just might try to steal either your money or your identity.
Over $100 billion is stolen from Americans each and every year. And this number is under reported by as much as 80% simply because so many of us are too embarrassed to admit we’ve been had or don’t know we’ve been had.
According to First Orion, an Arkansas firm that provides phone carriers and their customers’ caller ID and call blocking technology, 2019 promises to be a banner year for the scammers. Their studies suggests that 45% of all incoming phone calls will be uninvited ones from people who want to sell us something we don’t need or scare us into giving them money. As a point of reference, in 2017 only 3.7% of total calls were scams and in 2018, 29%.
So why the proliferation of scams and con artists? It’s simple. The bad guys make a ton of money.
Between 2013 and 2017, a thief named Sagar Thakkar, aka “Shaggy” operating from Mumbai, India, stole over $300 million from unsuspecting Americans. He had over 700 employees all getting rich by pretending to be representatives of the IRS demanding payment of back taxes.
Why is it that we are so gullible, so prone to make decisions that are obviously not in our best interests? There are many reasons but common to all reasons is the fact that we make most of our decisions based on emotions. When we receive a call purportedly from the IRS or the Sheriff’s department or Medicare or countless other shams, we typically react with fear. Fear and it’s ugly cousin greed, are powerful motivators. The scammers know this only to well and prey upon our emotional frailties.
The six major scams in America today according to AARP include Romance, Home Repair, Health Care, Investments, Charities and Grandparents.
And the best way to guard ourselves and our loved ones from these scams involve three simple measures.
- Simon Lovell, the 20th century’s most notable con man tells us, “I love it when someone tells me they can’t be conned, because in my mind they’re already halfway to being conned.” So admit to yourself… I can be scammed!’
- Don’t make any decision based on emotions. I know, this is tough to do but we must if we want to safeguard our money and our families. At the very least back off from the decision for 24-48 hours until you’ve had the opportunity to research the information or ask a trusted friend.
- Education is key. Familiarize yourself with the many ways people are enriching themselves at your expense and warn others. Remember when your mom told you, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? It’s as true today as it was when we were younger. Likewise don’t be bullied into sending money or information, especially over the phone because we’re frightened. By educating ourselves we can minimize the emotional factors.