Fairly often, I speak to community groups and members of the media about fraud and scams. To an extent, this is to keep people informed, so they will never be hoodwinked, themselves. Perhaps even more important, it is so they can help others be on the lookout.
What if someone does not have a great deal of experience? Or, what if someone just is not very cautious? The fact is that there are all sorts of people we know – people who may be very smart and thoughtful about any number of things – who are excellent targets for scams because of their circumstances.
One example is a young family member – let’s call him Bob – who wanted to sell a used video game console online. He posted his ad and received an offer for his asking price of $300 from a buyer within just a few hours. He was so excited! He packaged the game for shipping and was all ready when the check arrived – a money order for $1200, rather than the expected $300.
Of course, Bob immediately let the buyer know about the mistake, who was so appreciative for Bob’s honesty. Since it was a money order, Bob could not just tear it up, so the buyer asked Bob to wire the money to a bank account, and offered to let him keep an extra $100 for his trouble.
Well, this story actually goes on for a while, but the bottom line is that young Bob had found himself in the middle of a scam. A little investigating showed that the money order was a fake. If Bob had wired money to the provided bank account – which was overseas – he would have been out that money, and the money order would have been worthless. The only thing that prevented him becoming a victim was that he asked his mother for help with wiring the money, and a more seasoned head prevailed.
Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time, in a thousand different ways. Scammers are looking for people who lack experience, or perhaps are a little naïve about this sort of thing, or do not pay attention to the details that might otherwise tip them off to what is really happening. They often target seniors, or students, or people in tough financial situations. This last group can be particularly attractive, because people looking for a lifeline can get themselves to believe all kinds of things and ignore all sorts of warning signals.
In a million years, you are I might not fall for a scam, but don’t we all have members of our family, or others we know, who might be more likely victims? It could be our children, our parents, our neighbors, or any number of other possibilities. They may be the ones who need to watch out, and the more we know, the more we can help them.