It has always puzzled me why seemingly intelligent people can fall for telemarketing scams and lies from people they have never met or even spoken to. Just because someone spins a somewhat believable story online or on the phone doesn’t mean that it’s true, and most of the time it isn’t. I think the problem lies with two types of people that are natural targets:
- The softhearted want to help. If someone needs money to get out of jail, get back home to their troubled family, pay high medical bills, or some other misfortune, they will send whatever is needed – no questions asked.
- The greedy want to make a buck – or a thousand. These are the ones that will give personal financial information, send money or cash cheques in order to receive a monetary reward (for their trouble.)
I can’t believe that, even with all the warnings and exposure, people still fall for the “bank inspector” scam and the “African prince” who wants to use your chequing account to hold his millions while he escapes the country with his life, for a substantial reward of course.
The father of a friend of mine recently wired several thousand dollars to a scammer pretending to be his grandson who needed bail to get out of jail in another province and “please don’t tell mom that I’m in trouble”.
Of course, the grandson was in his home city, at work and had never been in any kind of trouble at all. I hear all the time of people who give out their credit card numbers to win phony vacations and other high end prizes (to pay for shipping or other bogus reasons), or because the bank has “made a mistake” and can they verify their account numbers and PINs.
Never, ever, give anyone your personal or financial information – SIN, bank account numbers, PIN, credit card number and expiry – online unless you are doing legitimate business (e.g. if you shop or pay bills online) on a secure, encrypted Internet site (remember the closed lock?), and never discuss this information over the phone.
If there is a banking error or other issue, the bank will want to see you in person or go through the secure procedures on their telephone banking system. They will never use email, as it is not secure.
If you are selling something online or renting a living space, take payment first and make sure it clears. Don’t accept any payment that is greater than what you asked for. With these scams you are requested to send back the difference, and then the original cheque bounces.
Before sending any money to anyone think about the request. Does is make sense? Legitimate contests will allow you to call them back and will never ask you to either pay a deposit or shipping, or ask for personal information.
Remember the old adages: “You don’t get something for nothing,” and “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.”