By Art Martens
About 2 years ago I received my first telephone call from “Windows”. The caller informed me they had detected a malfunction in my computer. If it wasn’t dealt with immediately, a variety of nasty, grief inducing consequences would surely ensue. The warning seemed to imply my life would never be the same again. Fortunately, Windows could help. “Are you at your computer now,” the caller asked. “Just turn it on.” Since then I’ve received a similar offer at least half a dozen times, most recently last month. The fact they are continuing to use this approach suggests there are still people being seduced.
Scams are big business, lucrative for the perpetrators and costly for unsuspecting victims. According to the Better Business Bureau, Canadians lost 95 million to scammers in 2017. They are a particularly cunning lot, wonderfully adept at preying on our needs, concerns, fears and desires. If their devious schemes weren’t so harmful to innocent victims, I might be inclined to admire their ingenuity.
Like a number of fellow Canadians, I was at one time lured into purchasing an attractive vacation package. It happened in late winter. I was weary of the Fraser Valley’s dreary clouds and rain. When the call came, I was psychologically ready to be fleeced. Everything pertaining to the offer seemed in order, including a recognizable company name and what initially seemed a credible website. I had of course heard the saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it isn’t true.” But I wanted it to be true and I allowed myself to be easily persuaded.
Within minutes of agreeing to the offer, Linda & I realized it didn’t feel right. Further investigation revealed we’d been duped. I immediately called the credit card company hoping to forestall the transaction and alert them to the scam. The representative dealing with my call seemed entirely unconcerned. Eventually the company did reimburse me, but only after 2 months of numerous phone calls and a threat to go to the media.
Some scammers could have a career in pulp fiction. They understand the importance of a credible cover story. The best ones provide a believable context designed to distract us from doubts. Some years ago I received an email from a woman I knew only through fairly casual contacts. The email said, “I desperately need your help. I’m in London England, and I’ve been robbed of cash and my airline ticket. I need $2,000 to return home. Please send money to .. .” He husband was editor of our community newspaper. The paper’s next front page headline was “Don’t Send Money!”
Protecting ourselves against scams requires skepticism and a willingness to engage in due diligence. When my 18 year old, 6 foot 4 inch grandson Brandon saw an ad for an early 1970’s Charger at a phenomenal price, he was interested. Having already bought and sold several cars, he had a sense for the market. He sent a text message requesting information as to the car’s condition and location. The seller responded by saying she already had several indications of interest and if he wanted the car he needed to do a money transfer of $500 to her account. Apparently confident he wouldn’t make the drive from Langley, she also gave him the North Vancouver address where the car was located.
Still keen, but thinking this could be a scam, Brandon and a friend drove to the address, a million dollar plus home. It was for sale and the listing realtor was on site for an open house. Impressed by Brandon’s height and his story about a large, impending inheritance from his grandfather, the realtor willingly conducted the 2 young men through the spacious dwelling. The tour ended in the garage, the only area of the house Brandon wanted to see. It was vacant.
The Better Business Bureau notes that scammers are constantly changing tactics and are becoming harder to detect. Its website lists the current 10 top scams. These include online purchases, wire fraud, dating, employment and weight loss. In regard to the latter it cautions, “many fat burning products may only lighten your wallet.”
The continuing calls from “Windows” indicates it is still profitable. For it to be profitable there must be people willing to believe and trust. I’ve learned that when a telephone or online offer comes to me, I need to mentally ask myself, “Could this be a scam?”
Source:: Living Significantly