Every week – sometimes every day – I talk to individuals, the media, and community organizations about the dangers of getting scammed. There is always something new or timely to share – the latest e-mail going around, scams related to holidays or to a specific demographic, or something tied to a new technology or social media. Trust me, there are so many scams our there, sometimes it practically takes my breath away.
Even with all of those scams, most people think there is no way it could happen to them. They think they are too smart, or too suspicious, or too careful. They assume that those who are getting scammed are naïve, impaired in some way, or getting too old.
Even I can have this mindset, often saying to groups, “I know that none of us would fall for something like this, but we all know someone who might, so we need to know what can happen and help protect those people.”
Well, I am here to tell you that – given the right circumstances – anyone can fall victim. If we get hit in just the right way, at just the right time, even the smartest of us can get scammed.
This reality hit home for me in the last week, as a close friend fell victim and today is out $11,300.
What happened? Well, my friend – who is a smart, successful, self-made business leader in our community – received an e-mail that looked like it was coming from his business partner, asking that he immediately wire $11,300 to a client to make sure that an important deal was not lost. The message said that the business partner was stuck in a long meeting and that he was e-mailing from his cell phone, so any typos in the message should be forgiven. The message stressed that the money had to be sent quickly, so the client would get the money in time.
My friend, who is a busy guy and considers himself a man of action, happened to have time right then. He wanted to help his business partner and knew that speed is often important to clients. It was not his personal money, so his level of suspicion was not high.
He got up from his desk, drove down the street to the bank, and wired the money to an account in another state. Then he did not think about it again for two days, when his business partner called, asking why the money was not in their company’s bank account.
You know the rest of the story. That money is gone. It was moved just as soon as it hit the new account. Today, it is probably overseas. No matter where it is, my friend’s company will almost certainly never see it again.
Take this as a warning to all of us. Scams do not have to be super clever, they just have to hit in just the right way at just the right time, and part of that is just bad luck.
The lesson to be learned is that we all have to be far more careful than we ever have been. We have to realize that these scams are out there, and we have to know what to look for. When we see anything that seems just a little out of the ordinary, where money or personal information is involved, we need to be ready to take a step back, ask questions, or just walk away.