Beware the Fool’s Gold…

In his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, yesterday, Pastor Freed used this quote – “All that glitters is not gold.”  (Shakespeare) He went on to warn about the widespread and fraudulent scams that we are constantly exposed to these days.

I call those scam emails and offers, Fool’s Gold. The scammers put a lot of glitter on their messages, all designed to get you to click on a link or expose your personal data. If you click on their links it usually results in some form of malware being installed onto your computer and they get access to all sorts of data and passwords and other things that are useful to them.

There are usually obvious clues to the nefarious nature of these messages to be found in the email address of the sender or the grammar of the scammer. I get a lot of scam messages from an email address that contains com@cast in the email address for the sender. Apparently, they think that the recipients of their emails won’t take the time to look at who sent the message. Always look at the sender’s email address and if it looks strange or has nothing to do with the company that it is supposedly coming from just delete it. The scammers are quite good at creating fake email addresses that look legit at a glance, but none can stand up to scrutiny.

Another tip-off is the opening salutation. Not many companies really send out messages that open with Dear (your name here) or Dear Customer.  The subject line in these scam messages are designed to get you to open them, either out of fear or greed. The subject line may tell you that your account at some bank has been frozen or that suspicious activity has been detected. In many cases the messages that I receive reference banks that I don’t do business with at all, so that is an easy tip-off. Another favorite is the “You’ve won…” or maybe “ Click here to receive your free…” Subject lines or opening lines like that should immediately raise red flags.

Bad grammar is another tip-off. Most of these scam messages originate in countries where English is not the primary language. Some are actually composed in whatever the native language is and then translated on the fly. The sentence structures and grammar that result are laughable and obvious.  In other cases, you have to read it to see that this was not composed by someone for whom English is the primary language. So look at the structure and word usage in the message and it if doesn’t make sense to you or looks funny, it is probably a scam.

Other favorite scams involve sending emails that look like that are from government agencies, usually with some sort of scary threat of legal actions against you or maybe the appeal that you are owed some money from the government, if only you click on the included link. These have apparently replaced the emails that I used to get from the ex-Finance Minister of Botswana in Africa asking me to help with getting his fortune out of the country. Maybe he finally found that help and is now living the life of leisure in Palm Beach.  

Not all of the Fool’s Gold is delivered by email. I still get calls every day from Google and some company trying to sell me an extended warranty on a car I no longer own. Google uses the scare tactic that my business will not be seen by people searching for it because I haven’t signed up to pay Google for a business listing . In both cases I wait until the end of the robocall and make the choice to be removed from their call list, but the next day I get the calls again. I wish that there were an app that would let me forward those calls to the Michigan Attorney General’s office each time I get them. I suspect that our Attorney General  would get tired of them and take some action to stop them.

So, beware most of what glitters or sounds glittery (or scary); most of the messages are Fool’s Gold. Don’t be the fool who reaches for that gold. It will bite you.

Stop and think before you click on any link or respond to any email. You may think you just hit the jackpot, but perhaps what you are looking at is Fool’s Gold. Don’t play the fool!

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