How to look out for scams

The old adage “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” is as relevant today as it was when it was first coined way back when. In 1601 a play was written with this title by Wentworth Smith, Henry Chettle and Richard Hathwaye. The title was taken from an expression used even earlier – many scholars have debated the exact year this expression first came to be used, but whenever that was we’ve had it for at least 400 years.

What does this mean for us in the 21st century? Hopefully it’ll make you aware that there are scammers, conmen, tricksters everywhere and have been for a long time. Not that they’re more prevalent today than they were way back when – it’s just that nowadays with the rise and rise of the internet and it’s wonders, making the world smaller, yet at the same time expanding our universe, these scourges of society are able to con more people a lot more easily than PI (Pre Internet).

With a few key-strokes, an unscrupulous individual could con an unsuspecting individual out of their hard earned money as easily as Donald Chump can lie about his ties with Russia.

HOW TO SPOT A SCAM

Scams appear in many forms – from Nigerian Princes looking to bestow money upon a lucky individual, to your bank requiring you to “update your security details online” providing them with your most personal details, banking details etc. (If your bank does want you to update your details, more often than not they’ll request a face-to-face meeting whereby you provide an actual person in an actual bank your identification, signature, a copy of your last bank statement and (possibly) your old password).

Online, spotting a scam is relatively easy; poorly spelled words are a dead giveaway – if a multimillion dollar company such as a bank can’t get someone to proofread their emails, then there’s something definitely wrong with your bank. (Of course, this all falls down if you get an email from Donald Chump as he’s totally illiterate and likes to throw in a covfefe here and there just to keep you on your toes. Basically, just ignore anything from the presidunce of the U.S.)

Ridiculous claims – such as from your local tax office – stating you owe thousands of dollars in back-taxes and you should pay x amount of dollars into this account to avoid prosecution is just ridiculous. If you were to get an email such as this, flag it as spam, then – if you’re feeling really annoyed – forward the email to your local tax office and get them to hunt the scammers down. I had a mate who got one of these emails and he forwarded the email to me as he wasn’t too sure if he owed money or not. I looked over the email and within the first sentence there were 3 glaringly obvious mistakes; His name was spelt incorrectly, Australia was missing its “I” and his address was listed as a street, rather than a drive. When I pointed this out to him, he laughed and forwarded the scam to the A.T.O whereupon I hope they tracked this nincompoop down and inserted one of their largest computers into one of his smallest orifices.

The Nigerian Prince Scam

Gotta admit I was almost fooled by this once. True. Even the poorly spelt words, unintelligible sentence structure and use of my surname only as a reference didn’t dissuade me that this could be legit. What did set my radar off though was when they said my Mother was also entitled to a share! “Wait a sec,” I thought, “maybe they’re not on the level? Surely this Kingdom of Watsamaddafoyu would have enough resources to realise that my mother has been dead for the last four years and would probably not be interested in any such claims? Hmmmm.

I replied politely to this email, asking if there was anyone there who could converse in English, had an I.Q above 2 and wouldn’t mind providing me with an initial $50,000 so I could safely set up an account that the authorities in Australia couldn’t lay claim to the money I was entitled to…..

That was seven years ago, and I haven’t heard back from them as yet, but I live in hope…

The F.B.I, C.I.A, N.Y.P.D ETC ETC ETC Scam

This is a fun scam. Well, for me it was. I was bopping along on the web looking for a long-case clock (Grandfather clock for the non horologists) when I got a warning email from the F.B.I. I opened it up and found that the FBI had seized my computer as I had been on a site flagged by them and I had to answer some questions on a site which I had to conveniently had to go to, by simply clicking the link. Hmmm, should I or shouldn’t I?

Nah, screw ‘em. I live in Australia. If they want me, come and get me – free trip to the U.S!! I turned my laptop off, undid the battery, waited a few seconds and went back online. Not seized? Hmmm! Surely the fibbies would still be able to hold my computer for ransom? No? Oh. LOL!

If you’re just surfing the web and having a look at “Better ways to bake bread” or whatever and a pop-up happens to pop-up offering you a great deal on something that you never thought you wanted, then just ignore it. People have had their computers seized by hackers and have been forced to pay hundreds of dollars to get their computers unlocked by clicking on these links. The simplest way around this? Only surf the net on a laptop. If someone tries to seize your computer, simply turn it off, take out the battery, wait a few seconds and put the battery back in. Your computer is yours again and you can surf with ease.

If, however, you don’t have a laptop, then installing a decent browser will allow you to add to your browser Ad Blockers, Pop-Up blockers, Web Of Trust add-ons and a whole myriad of safeguards. I use Firefox and have never had a problem with people trying to get my data or had my computer seized by hackers. I then installed several ad and pop-up blockers which lets me surf safely.

As always, no matter what you’re doing, always be mindful of your surroundings. And remember : If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Take care out there and enjoy your surfing.

By Pete J

 
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