As a garden-variety of scams keeps growing like noxious weeds, it’s difficult to understand why so many people fall for them.
How can victims be so gullible?
However, in some ways, falling victim to a scam is understandable. For one thing, people are constantly being asked for their Social Security numbers. On the one hand, people are told never, ever to give out those numbers to anyone. And yet, on the other hand, people are asked frequently for their Social Security numbers – for job applications, for paperwork at financial institutions, for this, that and the other thing. Many, if not most, people have given out their Social Security numbers so many times, it’s like a reflex reaction; they do it without thinking of the possibility of being scammed.
For another thing, these crooks have become so sophisticated, so seemingly “above-board,” their pitches don’t seem in the least bit crooked. They are adept at using “hooks” in the form of threats and promises. Your bank account’s in danger! You might miss out on a free trip! Your grandchild needs bail money!
The only way to avoid all scams is to steel oneself to be skeptical. It’s a sad sign of these times that trust, too, has become a victim. Some who have been duped become not only skeptical but cynical. They’ve adopted the attitude of “don’t trust anybody, don’t trust anything,” which is unfortunate.
One need not become cynical, but a wary skepticism is a prerequisite for living in this technologically driven world where scams are so widespread and hard to prosecute. The barrage of scams makes an informed skepticism a survival necessity.
There are so many good tips to avoid scams – too many for most people to remember. But here are the major ones to keep in mind:
1. Do not give out your Social Security numbers or any banking information (unless you know for certain you are dealing with legitimate requests).
2. Try never to do business over the phone. “In person” is always best.
3. Do not do business at the front door, unless you are certain it is legitimate.
4. Shred or burn all documents containing personal information.
5. During offers via phone, ask for a call-back number, then say goodbye and hang up.
6. Try to initiate all business; don’t accept solicitations unless you are doubly certain of their legitimacy.
7. If a beloved relative “in trouble” calls you, be sure it’s that person. Call back to check.
8. If someone on the phone gets pushy, say, “Do not call me again,” then hang up.
9. Whenever possible, do business locally, in person.
10. Last but not least, once again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.