Think like a criminal to protect yourself against scams
Last week we saw another dismaying report of criminals stealing from innocent individuals in our community.
Just so outrageous a destruction of savings, particularly given that everyone’s budget has been affected by Covid-19.
Why is this happening?
Why are individuals getting defrauded?
Is it because we:
• Don’t understand the level of risk?
• Don’t perceive that we are being lied to about the level of risk?
• Are trusting everyone to be as honest as we are?
• Are swept up in the impulsiveness of the moment because my friends, my church, my club, my peer groups are investing in a perceived “wonderful” investment scheme?
• Can’t help succumbing to a bit of greed, overriding common sense?
• Find that finance has become so complicated?
• Don’t realise just how much better scammers are at perpetuating lies?
• Have become more impulsive or gullible than we used to be?
All these excuses seem legitimate enough to beat oneself up about being conned, but I submit that it is nowhere entirely ones fault.
Criminals have no social conscience, no boundaries, no ethics, no honesty, they will rob anyone because they are focused only on their own self interests.
It cannot be stated enough!
In order to protect yourself, your family, your finances and your interests, you have to learn to think like a criminal.
The urgent phone call
Let’s start with recent persistent forms of theft –the urgent phone call. Why? Because criminals find them so successful. By the way, I’m getting these scammer phone calls, too.
Quite often, the phone call appears to be sourced from a friend, a local business exchange number, etc. but is actually from some person (sometimes with a heavy accent) requesting you act immediately to resolve some problem with, for example:
• Amazon orders
• Your investment manager
• Your bank
• Your credit card company
• Some auto warranty service
• Some insurance company
• Some broker
• A government social security office: US, Canada, UK etc.
• US Internal Revenue
• Apple / Microsoft Computer support
You name it.
What’s your first reaction? You want to take care of it even though you aren’t sure of the problem. Don’t!
Copy that phone number down, then hang up. Hang up, hang up – I cannot say this enough.
Do not get into any dialogue about anything. Scammers are looking for personal information – to co-opt your accounts, change your password, and steal at leisure and they are very persuasive.
Better yet – do not accept the call – let it go to voice mail.
Next, then go to the website mentioned and check to verify that phone number against the real business phone number – then, you call them to ascertain the problem, if any.
Urgent e-mail works the same way
The e-mail arrives from someone purporting to be one of the above – all stating just click here to verify this information
• Check your bank balance
• Review your Amazon order
• Check your medical history
• Your pension balance
• Investment account
Make it a rule to never, ever click when it says click here or other selection to verify something on any e-mail, review your account, contact someone etc.
Ignore the e-mail message, always go directly to your account at the real website, such as Amazon, your bank, your pension fund, your Apple support, and login.
FYI, I’ve had e-mail messages purporting to be from Amazon listing retail goods I did not buy, wanting account numbers, verification to ship, phoney e-mails looking like the US IRS, US social security, and others.
Be very alert – think once, twice, many times before responding – do your best to verify the information elsewhere independently.
Worst and saddest type of fraud – committed by someone trusted
A particularly difficult situation arises when a faith community, a club, an association, for instance, unsuspectingly sponsors a guest speaker, an influencer, a radio show host with a PhD (phoney?), with an implicit message is that these are helpful financial people who can be trusted.
In early November 2021, an 80-year old Christian Texas radio host, Doc Gallagher, was sentenced to three life prison sentences for a Ponzi scheme in which he bilked elderly listeners out of their life savings – estimated total fraud of $38 million. He appeared to have the believable expertise, wrote four books, one titled, Jesus Christ, Money Master, while living the high life for decades on scammed money. He had no problem simultaneously giving his audience financial advice.
How do you filter out this type of criminal activity?
What can you believe in when trust is simply shattered, coupled with financial tragedy?
It used to be that when a person gave his or her word, it was trusted absolutely. Can we still be operating under that old, embedded code of honour? Is the element of trust and honesty completely gone from our lives and our vocabulary?
Lying is the name of the game
Today, lying (and power gains) appears to be just fine, even when it is very clear facts are distorted. Social media repeatedly perpetuates it, numerous self-serving individuals, particularly those with power, seeking personal gain at the expense of the rest of the “sheep” population – insulting words not derived from me, readers – excelled at employing various methods to ruthlessly steal.
The worst part of operating with integrity, ethics, and trust in today’s environment is that those who manipulate to profit from lies, scams, grifts, and downright stealing now have the mechanisms, the financial means, and most importantly social media platforms to destroy the ethical individual and the real facts.
When lies, obfuscation, fake statements and actions become perceived truth, what on earth do we have left to believe in?
Justice? That’s an expensive proposition to catch, then convict sophisticated criminals.
In the end, you have to trust your instincts. You have a prehistoric inbuilt danger warning system.
Listen to your innate self. If it doesn’t feel right……. You know the answer!
We’ve become cynical, sceptical, and suspicious – and in our current environment, have lost something very precious – the ability to trust, and that is an absolute tragedy.
Christian radio host gets three life sentences for bilking over $32 million from elderly listeners, Associated Press, November 2, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/4mmwctax
Scammers, hackers, and how to thwart them, Martha Harris Myron. Updated: July 12, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/hhpewvye
Welcome to the golden age of scammers, Molly Roberts, The Washington Post, November 10, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/y8n73ahp
Martha Harris Myron, a native Bermudian with US connections, is a qualified international cross-border financial planner, the author of The Bermuda Islander Financial Planning Primers, a Google News Contributor since 2016, international financial consultant to the Olderhood Group Bermuda Ltd., and financial columnist to The Royal Gazette