“Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto”

Never do I cease to be amazed by the sheer audacity of the human race in its creativity for frauding the gullible public.

Laughing sadly, I read those snippets in the paper, those tiny “news” stories that describe scams that no regular person could begin to dream up, let alone execute, but yet some element of bottom feeders have managed to conjure up scenarios to bilk certain groups in the population. For example, in Vietnam, 7 fraudsters were convicted for deceiving families of war soldiers by creating a “business” of finding their dead loved ones. The group apparently moved unidentified corpses into fake graves and charged the families a “finder’s fee” for locating their dear departed using, – wait for it, – paranormal powers! (Gazette October 17, 2015).

After 911, a plethora of scam artists targeted those wishing to lend a hand to victims and their families, asking for monetary contributions by passing as fake charities. Some just post online selling T-shirts.

How do some people do this? How can they? What thought process leads people to think this is how to earn a living? How can they live with themselves? I will always remain incredulous about such scams even though I hold no lofty visions of homo sapiens. And then there are the Asian, African and Arabic e-mails. Just recently I received an e-mail whose subject matter stated, “Assalamualaykum” (Arabic greeting for “the peace be upon you”). As if I would consider the undisclosed “proposal” to be discussed. Delete.

And recently, I also received an e-mail from, allegedly, Sgt. Monica Lin Brown, stating that she saw my profile on Facebook and wanted to be “friends”. Who the heck is Monica Lin Brown? Well, being the sceptic I am, and cautious (again influences from those crime shows I love to watch), I googled the name. And low and behold the real Sgt. Brown is only the 2nd woman since World War II (and the 1st in the war on Afghanistan) to receive the Silver Star for her actions and bravery after a roadside bomb detonated near her convoy. She was presented with the medal by then Vice President Dick Cheney, luckily not while out hunting with him!

So this person was surely a good “friend” candidate. But Google also demonstrated to me that Facebook is awash with scammers flooding us regular folks with posts which boil down to offering to “share” millions of money! The texts may vary but the gist is all the same and this e-mail from Sgt. Monica Lin Brown was no exception. Answer such e-mails or friend requests at your own peril. Either there is a virus attached or they are attempting to part you from your money. If you want to help out soldiers of any country, donate to the official Department of Veterans’ Affairs. You can securely help out and probably get a tax receipt.

I personally love the spelling in most of these scam e-mails. You can tell, almost immediately, assuming you know how to read and write yourself, that the information is corrupted. Bad grammar and incorrect spelling clearly are warning signs. Or phrases such as, “we must verify your account”, “your account has been compromised”, “your information was stolen”, “you have won a prize” and one of my personal favs, “the estate of ABC has left you millions. Please contact us to claim your inheritance”.

Aren’t you fed up of receiving “alerts” from Apple, ITunes, RBC, and PayPal…, that your account has been suspended. What I find incredulous is how many people still actually fall prey to these scams. And it will only get worse the more advanced technology becomes.

Another interesting take on bilking money out of people are the actual mailed “invoices” from companies, invariably situated in places like Mexico. Last year I received and continue to receive invoices and demand letters to pay $1700.00+ U.S. to be listed in a directory. What was particularly almost believable about the initial e-mail received was that they allude to a veritable Expo Guide I had been involved with and they were requesting simply to “update” my information – reference being made to the real Expo, in my case situated in California. After this, invoices and demand letters started arriving in the mail. There is absolutely nothing this outfit in Mexico can do to make you pay; expect to bully you with threats of prosecution and seizure (sometimes even jail). Don’t bother to answer as that will only spur them on. Just recycle the paper.

So beware and simply Google the name of any sender or subject matter to verify unknown e-mails and see what pops up before you click on open!

© 2016 Linda Hammerschmid

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