Don’t be that sucker…

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”  (P.T.Barnum – died: 4/7/1891) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

If Barnum were alive today, he would be in the Robo-call/email scam business. He would be the one having calls made to you about your car warranty expiring or maybe to inform you how lucky you are to have been chosen to receive a free medical device.

It is unfortunate that there have always been and will always be unscrupulous people out there trying to prey on the naïve or unsuspecting, especially the elderly. No matter how many times these scams are reported on the news or how many ads from legitimate organizations run to tell you that they will not call your or threaten you over the phone, people still fall for them.

I get these scam calls and emails all the time, even for cars that I haven’t owned for years or about supposedly suspended accounts in banks with which I have never done business. Some are much more sophisticated than others and made more believable with the use of company/organization logos and information to make them look like they actually came from Microsoft or maybe the IRS.  I always look at the email address of the supposed sender as a quick check.

Most of these scams depend on two things – scaring you and insisting that you need to take immediate action to avoid arrest or some other bad consequence. The scammers say that you need to rush to the bank and take out money or rush out and buy pre-paid gift cards to send to them or maybe even buy Bitcoins. The key is that you need to do it right now to avoid whatever horrible consequences that they have threatened you with. Don’t do it!

The fact is that all legitimate organizations work at a much slower pace and use completely different approaches to resolving issues. You might get an email or a letter if you missed or are behind in payments, but they are not usually threatening as much as reminding you to catch up and alerting you to penalties. Of course, it you go too long without paying they do tend to get more serious. For the most part, just ignoring the calls and emails is enough.

The scammers “business model” is based upon catching a few suckers out of the millions of emails and calls that they make each day, so they don’t have time to follow up on the rest. They’ll just send you another email or make another robo-call about the same thing tomorrow.

All of these calls and emails have resulted in creating a very skeptical and cynical population, which unfortunately works to the detriment of legitimate charity callers. We have become conditioned to just hang up on calls asking for money and ignore unsolicited emails. I wonder if anyone has ever just slammed the door on the Publishers Clearing House people who came to the door trying to give them a big check, because they thought it was a scam? Probably not since they came with a check and not asking for money.

An unfortunate unintended consequence of all of this scamming activity has been the inability of ex-Treasury Secretaries in small African nations to find someone in America to help them get their fortune out of the country by sending a few thousand dollars as a security deposit. I think I still have that email somewhere. Maybe I can help.

Don’t prove Barnum correct. Be cautious, be suspicious, be careful and don’t let yourself be frightened into hasty actions. Show Barnum and the scammers that you were not that sucker in the minute of your birth.

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