This past weekend, I received a phone call from a person who claimed to be an Internal Revenue Service agent. She claimed that the government had refunded $200 too much income tax return money. The caller asked if I had noticed the amount in my bank account. I gave her a non-committal answer because right away, I suspected this call was a scam. I also knew that the IRS and every other government agency never places cold calls to people. I replied to the caller that she must have a wrong number. Without pausing, I hung up.
We’ve all heard about people losing vast sums of money or even their life savings to fraudsters on the Internet. Some of the most tricky scams involve imposters who pretend to represent a government bureau or major corporation. Whether the fraud occurs on the Web or elsewhere, people are being cheated and frightened by schemers and fraudsters.
Oftentimes, it is not somebody cold-calling victims; instead it may be an enticing advertisement that promises amazing earning potential and a fat bank account. The advertiser promises the entrepreneurial opportunity of a lifetime. You can be your own boss and enjoy “passive income”. All you need to do is to attend a seminar or a webinar and you can get in on the “ground floor” of their incredible opportunity. Be very skeptical of such claims.
Other common scams include multi-level marketing or pyramid schemes. When I was first starting out, trying to make a living in my early 20s, a co-worker invited me to his home to learn about a wonderful business opportunity. Along with a dozen or so of other people, I attended the gathering. My coworker had set up a blackboard and a table lined with various products. During the sales pitch, the coworker welcomed us to the world of Amway.
I bought the starter kit which included a blue plastic tote tray, several cleaning products, some packets of vitamins, and a booklet. We were encouraged to sell products to our friends and family but if we wanted to make a living salary, we should recruit other people to become Amway Distributors.
The problem was, that most of the people I knew were not at all interested in this scheme. In fact, I ended up recruiting nobody at all. The experience left me feeling used. I was stuck with an overpriced plastic tray and substandard cleaning products. I took the vitamins every day for two weeks and didn’t feel any better or worse. I’ve been approached by other people recruiting for Amway and have turned them down. The multi-level marketing industry has left me feeling bitter.
Last month, YouTube included some scam-bater videos in my feed. These are people who have taken it upon themselves to outwit telephone and internet fraudsters. I’ve become somewhat addicted to the videos because I’ve learned about many of the methods the criminals use to try to defraud individuals. I must admit that I feel a healthy amount of Schadenfreude when the scammers have wasted their time and are defeated.
My favorite scam-bater goes by the pseudonym “Kitboga”. He disguises his voice and assumes phony characters when interacting with criminals. The scenarios reach absurd levels of hilarity and desperation. Kitboga not only wastes incredible amounts of the scammers’ time but sometimes manages to hack into their computer systems and delete the caller databases. In other words, the scam-bater scams the scammers.
I don’t recommend trying to do what Kitboga does. This could be dangerous and cause serious problems and possible interaction with organized crime. The best approach with phone scammers is to simply hang up. Regarding get rich quick schemes, just ignore them. If you get a virus alert email notification, be very careful and do NOT click any of the links in the email.
A good source to find out about the latest frauds and scams is AARP.org. They have a scam and fraud alerts page that is very useful and helpful.
Be mindful and exercise healthy skepticism about your dealings on line and elsewhere. Discernment and caution will help keep you safe.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes journalist and writer, Alex Berenson. “In a Ponzi scheme, a promoter pays back his initial investors with money he has raised from new investors. Eventually, the promoter can no longer find enough new investors to pay off the people who have already put up money, and the scheme collapses.”