Before I started teaching at Bentley University, I taught in the Massachusetts state prison system. Among my students was a scam artist, who decried the fact that in his day it took skills to be a proper scam “artist,” but that with the aid of today’s technology, anyone regardless of how skilled they may or may not be, can become a scammer. I thought of his sage analysis recently when I received the following email:
“Hello I am David this is to bring to your notice your ATM card has been release please contact us immediately with your information !!”
The email came from an address that was obviously not in any way related to any bank issuing an ATM card. In fact, the email did not indicate my name, an account number, the name of a bank or any scintilla of information that gave the slightest indication that the email was legitimate. Additionally, the grammar was deplorable. All in all, this may be the most pitiful attempt at a scam that I have ever seen. Obviously, what the scammer was trying to do was lure people into believing an emergency existed and they needed to provide information to resolve the problem. Of course, this information would not be used to solve a problem, but rather for purposes of identity theft.
It is easy to immediately disregard such a lame attempt to solicit personal information, however, many scam artists are indeed “artists” and their lures to induce you into providing personal information that would be used to make you a victim of identity theft are of much higher quality and more believable. The key thing to remember is that you never can trust that anyone sending you an email, text message or calling you on the phone is who they say they are. If you believe that the communication requesting personal information may be legitimate, you still should not respond by providing the information requested, but rather should contact the real organization purporting to be contacting you at an email address, website or phone number that you have confirmed is correct to inquire as to the legitimacy of the original communication. It is then that your fears will be confirmed and you will be told that indeed the initial communication was, in fact, a scam.