Guest Editorial: Avoid ‘scammation’

 A forested jungle is a place where there are twists, turns and danger lurking at every corner. It is a treacherous place, and in order to navigate through it successfully, people must be alert at all times in order to ensure their safety. 

There is another jungle, but this one can be found almost anywhere; it is also quite treacherous. It is the electronic “scammation” jungle, populated by identity thieves and other scam artists lurking at every corner. Unfortunately, these digital predators are becoming more sophisticated, and even people who are normally alert and cautious can fall prey. 

Important facilitators of this ever-increasing army of scammers and fraudsters are devices such as computers, cell phones, and online venues. Because of them, scammers are able to extend their reach, as well as hide their true identities. 

Who would have thought back in the day, before cell phones, that a person would one day be able to call you on the phone, copy your voice, and then use it to purchase items or use it for other forms of malfeasance? It’s happening! 

There are also fraudsters who can take your home right from under you without you knowing. They can forge deeds, and you can find yourself homeless because someone has fraudulently taken your property. 

Online venues are hotbeds of scammation, and like the physical jungle mentioned earlier, danger lurks at every point. 

Online shopping was once considered to be a godsend; to be able to sit at a computer and purchase items that are then delivered to your home is a wonderful development. It saves time, energy, and the annoyance of traffic. It too, has been violated by scammers who make promises regarding items that either never make it to your home or if they do, they are not what you ordered. 

But the internet is not the only place where scammers lurk. They can actually break into your computer and masquerade as a business providing services you already have, but closer scrutiny reveals that they are imposters. 

For example, there are companies that provide you with computer protective services with which you already have accounts, and it is not uncommon to receive a “renewal notice” from the company on a document that looks legitimate saying that you need to renew in order to retain their services. Closer examination reveals, however, that these are scams. Fraudsters have created counterfeit documents complete with the design, logo and colors characteristic of the actual company. If you send them money, not only have you been scammed, but they can also use your banking and credit information for identity theft purposes. 

Other computer scams include people who can take control of your computer, making it unusable until you call a certain number to reach a “technician” who promises to rescue it and get rid of whatever is causing problems. The catch is that the person who answers the call is a scammer who has the ability to further invade your privacy and gain access to important information that can be used to take advantage of you. 

There are numerous other scams that target the general population, but according to pundits, senior citizens are particularly vulnerable. Because of this, it is important for seniors (and others) to become extremely cautious when taking care of business. This is especially true of computer-related purchases or wherever password compromise is possible. 

There are some things to consider helping ensure safety from scammers. 

Do not share your social security or credit card numbers with strangers, especially if THEY contact you. Utilize services that block spam; do not engage with people who call and ask you for money. Be extremely cautious when making online purchases. 

Avoid suspicious-looking email that requires you to send money in order to receive a package that is being held for delivery to you. Do not put personal information like social security numbers on your bank checks. Change your passwords frequently and be cautious about any unsolicited commercial “deals.” 

This is just the tip of the iceberg, because there are many other scams of a diverse nature. Be vigilant and stay alert. A Luta Continua. 

(Reprinted from the Chicago Crusader)

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