How Do You Sort Out The Scammers From The Real Thing?

It is becoming almost impossible to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys.

The other day I received a telephone call requesting a convenient time to schedule the annual servicing of our air conditioning unit. The caller’s English was heavily accented and I had trouble hearing her, so thinking it was another scam robo-call I hung up while she was mid-sentence. The next day I received an email from my regular HVAC service provider to schedule my annual air conditioning service call. Was the earlier phone call legit and was I unbelievably rude to a woman simply trying to do her job? Who knows?

Hardly a day goes by that we aren’t harrassed by telemarketers for duct-cleaning services. How they manage to evade all the Do Not Call lists is a mystery to me, but they are persistent and extremely annoying. Then, there are the regular calls from someone warning us that a suspicious amount of $349.00 is being charged to our Amazon account and unless we want to accept the charges, Please Press 1. 

No one is immune to falling prey to scammers but seniors are particularly vulnerable.

Scam callers who claim to be from CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) are working overtime at this time of year and we have to be on constant guard. Their messages are official-sounding and threatening. My father was only able to identify many scammers because they usually referenced his computer or some online service and he didn’t own a computer. The elderly are particularly vulnerable as they do not have the technological savvy to see through these frauds.

Those calls supposedly from Microsoft advising that they have detected a serious virus on our computer are more easily intercepted and halted. Others are more devious and it’s becoming impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Many people opt for never answering their phones at all unless they recognize the caller. That is one solution. But, inevitably, the scammers will call back, usually from a different number. Most people have their own way of handling these calls. We can usually pick off the robo-calls by the few seconds that lapse between the time you answer and they engage with you. That makes it easy for us to just hang up.

Online scammers can be trickier. I usually try to dissect the sender’s online address which eliminates many of them but the sender’s address is not always visible. When I get a suspicious email from my bank or a commercial enterprise I do business with, I usually never reply directly. The safest approach is to call your bank directly, visit your branch, or engage with your preferred retailers and vendors directly on their secure website.

Catfishing scams on dating sites have robbed many honest romance-seekers of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, I am not on the dating scene as there are endless online dating and catfishing scams directed at innocent and often lonely people simply looking for a friendly connection. I personally know someone who fell prey to these scammers and my heart breaks for the thousands of women (and men) who have been reeled in. Intelligent, educated people have been duped. Answering your phone or replying to an email can set an entire criminal operation into action that can be difficult if not impossible to extract yourself from.

This past winter I was forced to close the only email address I’ve ever had which was on Yahoo because I was hacked from Nigeria and lost all my contacts. I still receive emails telling me that my Yahoo account needs to be updated or it will be cancelled unless I click an official-looking link to Yahoo . . . which, after Google-ing for more information I discovered was also a scam.

Internet fraud is a rampant and growing problem that is long overdue for regulation.

Internet and other scams rain down on us like a non-stop meteor shower. I’m starting to feel like I live in Pompeii and I’m being smothered alive by destructive poisonous ash and digital gas. We’re pelted on a daily basis and it’s time regulators and goverments grew some cajones and came up with solutions to these problems. Television, telephone and other communications networks are heavily regulated for our safety. Why not the internet?

I do not have any answers to this problem other than to remind everyone to be very, very careful and err on the side of caution. Never, ever respond if you are even the tiniest bit suspicious. CRA, your bank, and other legitimate service providers have secure websites you can log on to or call directly.

If you’ll excuse me now, I have to call my HVAC service provider and schedule my annual A/C checkup. I hope they’re not going to penalize me for hanging up on them the other day. We still have to live and interact in this world but please be careful out there.

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Gail Czopka
Gail Czopka
3 months ago

It’s a crazy world & getting crazier……I hope I can still use that term😉