Scams Galore

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Scams Galore: a reader asks…

I’ve noticed lately that I’m getting a lot more scam emails, phone calls and even text messages. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize them as scams. For example, this fake Paypal email. Is there a way to stop all this nonsense?

The only way to stop this is to stop doing anything online (and/or in person). There’s just too much potential money to be made for scammers to stop dreaming up new ways to scam you out of your money. There’s truth in the old saw “a sucker is born every minute”. The sad fact is that we humans are quite gullible. Fortunately, you are on your guard and are not responding to the many scam attempts. These scammers are blasting out scams at huge volume and variety, and are successful at finding enough new victims to keep them in ‘business’ and working hard.

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Since there are so many different ways that scammers can work, it’s an impossible task for law enforcement or anyone to keep up. That’s why you’ll simply not be able to stop ‘this nonsense’. Your best bet is to remain paranoid, treat everything that comes in with suspicion, and never respond to anything unless you’re 100% sure it’s legitimate. That includes any and all communication channels such as text, email, social media, websites, telephone and even real people (such as door-knockers).

For emails such as the example you sent, it’s easy to look at two huge giveaways. Almost all scammer messages will use one or both of these:

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  1. The From: address isn’t from the domain of the supposed entity sending to you. If the email was from Paypal, the From: address should at least say …@paypal.com, right?
  2. Any links inside the email should be checked, and you’ll see they don’t point to the domain of the supposed entity sending to you. If reading the message on a computer, hover your cursor over the link and the actual web address will show up as a small popup or tooltip. Check the domain and you’ll see where it actually goes.

Everyone should make it a habit to avoid clicking on any links in any email. Even if the email is legitimate, it’s always safer to visit a website or online entity by typing the web address into your web browser yourself rather than following a link from an email, text message, social media link, etc. If you previously setup a bookmark or favorite to the website you can use that as well. That goes for following links from other online entities (such as social media).

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Under no circumstances should you give out any personal information to anyone either by phone, text, social media, or even in person unless you initiated the contact and you are absolutely sure the other end is legitimate. I get calls every month from banks (including banks I use), credit card companies (including companies I’ve never used), tech support companies (Microsoft, etc.) and more that are all scams. I’ve taken to not answering my phone unless I know from caller ID who’s calling, and even then I’m suspicious. I know that these scammers know their psychology and can if given the chance, can talk most anyone out of something. So don’t give them the chance – don’t engage.

I recognize that there may be a situation where someone legitimate is trying to contact me and I might miss it by being so paranoid about scams. I believe this is a reasonable trade-off in these times. If the contact is important, they’ll try again or try another way. If not, I’m not going to lose sleep over missing out on whatever they might have wanted. The risks are just too great and the scammers are just too good for anyone to be trusting these days.


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