Scams and fraud have been a part of history since the beginning of time. Many of the new scams that we see today are not really new at all, but merely variations on old cons. One such scam that was perpetrated in the 1500s when it was called the Spanish Prisoner Scam has evolved over the years into the Nigerian Letter Scam of today. Scams relating to medical treatments and diet were as attractive to early American colonists as they are to us, in what we perceive to be more enlightened times.
The old French proverb is indeed correct. “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Age old human desires don’t seem to change. Clever con artists can manipulate those desires to their own benefit. Con artists are indeed criminals, but they are also the only criminals we refer to as artists because as much as we deplore their actions, we also recognize their art.
Scam artists adjust their art to paint whatever picture they sense will make us vulnerable to their con. They have a knowledge of psychology that would make Freud envious. They know how to appeal to our particular weaknesses and psychological makeup. They appeal to whatever works. They construct a network of “people like us” whom we trust; they appeal to our fears; they appeal to our friendship; they appeal to our optimism; they appeal to our generous, charitable instincts; they appeal to our desire for quick and easy solutions to life’s vexing problems and they appeal to our greed. Sometimes they even appeal to and exploit that little kernel of dishonesty that many people have.
According to the Federal Trade Commission Americans lose billions of dollars to scams every year. Interestingly, the largest group of victims is between the ages of 25 and 44; ages when you are young enough to know everything – which, of course, makes you more vulnerable to a scam artist. Particularly troublesome is a study done by the National Association of Securities Dealers that indicated that wealthy people who are financially literate and astute are actually more likely to taken in by an investment scam.
Smart people can get scammed. Just ask any of the victims of Bernie Madoff.
The threat of scams and identity theft is not as bad as you think. It is far worse and getting more serious every day. Modern technology has been a boon to mankind, but it has even been a bigger boon to scam artists and identity thieves who are able to use the latest technology to scam you and steal your identity from your cell phone and every other mobile device.
Technology may be a part of the problem, but it is also part of the solution.
But the biggest solution is knowledge and skepticism.
And that is where I come in.
I can teach you how to recognize scams and risks of identity theft as well as how to avoid them. I can provide you with the telltale signs of scams and identity theft and I can alert you to the latest developments in scams and identity theft.
What you don’t know, can hurt you. I can educate you to spot the dangers in places you may never have considered, such as your television or your cell phone.
And if you have become a victim, I can show you what to do.
In this age of information sharing, everyone is vulnerable to identity theft and scams because even if you are doing everything right, the many companies and institutions with which you do business and operate with in your everyday life may not be protecting you as much as they can. I can show you how to minimize those risks.
Many years ago I worked as a professor in a college program in the state prison system in Massachusetts. One of my students was doing two consecutive life sentences, which meant that after he died, he would start his second sentence. When he told me about this I told him about how I always wondered how that worked. He said that he had too and that when he was sentenced, he yelled at the judge, “How do you expect me to do two consecutive life sentences” to which the judge responded, “Just do the best you can.”
There are no guarantees in life and there certainly is no guarantee that you will not become a victim of identity theft or scammed, but by doing the best you can, you can certainly narrow your chances of becoming a victim.