E. Faye Williams: The Scam can happen to us

Dr. E. Faye Williams

(TriceEdneyWire.com)—The one thing I will not accept or acknowledge is that age has rendered me incompetent.  I do admit that, like the other body parts among the aging, circumstances affecting individuals exist which impact their cognitive acuity.  Now, unlike the thoughts of many, age has not rendered ALL elders mentally deficient.  I consider any manifestation or act against my personhood that supports that thought as character assassination. 

The fact that elders are frequently targeted by unprincipled and unscrupulous scam artists is well known.  Incalculable amounts of money and personal property are swindled from elders each year.  Right-thinking individuals condemn these acts and wonder how people can live with themselves after such contemptible behavior.  It should be emphasized that although acts against the elders are, seemingly, more well-publicized, young people fall victim to scam artists as well.  I can only guess that fact is omitted because it flies in the face of the belief that the young, like Superman, possess invulnerability commensurate with their youth.

You may wonder why I use this article to address the issue of scamming.  I do so because I was recently the target of a scam.  I did not lose any money or property, but I was inconvenienced by having to adjust personal financial accounts and the loss of the time it took to resolve those issues.  From the perspective of a non-professional, I want to remind my readers of the pitfalls of conducting personal/financial business in the ever-changing and wide-open digital environment.  

Rather than begin my thoughts in the digital landscape, I want to address the mind—our own minds—their strengths and the hazards they open for us.  Our greatest strength rests in attention to detail, emotional self-control, the acknowledgment that we live in an environment where scamming has become more of a norm, and, most importantly, the recognition that the scam CAN HAPPEN TO US.  

I have noticed an increasing number of tempting online offers (scams) that come from those presenting themselves as reputable businesses.  These offers include logos and images we associate with legitimacy and present no immediate reason for caution.  For all electronic communication, I have learned to look first at the correspondence’s originating address.  If the address suggests a source other than that which is represented, I immediately delete it.  Moving further, except for fine detail, some images look so authentic that the casual observer can be, and is often, fooled.  

Scammers cast wide nets.  I cannot count the number of times I have been asked to reconcile accounts with banks or businesses I have no connection with.  You might be asked to verify an existing account number.  You may be encouraged to renew an “expired” subscription.  Scammers depend upon extracting bits and pieces to help them complete a puzzle.  

Key to THE SCAM is the emotional “hook.”  Common to the “questionable” correspondence I have received are appeals to fear, greed, and the loss of opportunity.  I am sure there are more “hooks,” but those stand out.  The scammer relies on catching you off-guard and receiving an immediate emotional response.  Commonalities exist among humans.  Many are delinquent with debts or other obligations and fearful of the consequence.  Some cannot resist the idea of getting something for nothing.  Others cannot pass up “a deal” that is available for only a short period of time—deals too good to miss.  You can experience these “hooks” separately or in tandem, and their messages will be so general as to fool many.    

Key to our emotional and financial security is the understanding that real privacy is a thing of the past—we must acknowledge potential vulnerability.  The scammer relies on a lack of awareness, over-confidence, and self-indulged arrogance to succeed.  Be aware of schemes! 

(Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of The Dick Gregory Society (thedickgregorysociety.org; drefayewilliams@gmail.com) and President Emerita of the National Congress of Black Women)



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