Some Con Jobs Aren't So Obvious

Published 3:04 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Technology is like anything else. It can be used wisely and well, for the good of us all, or as a means to hurt others.

Just as words can be used to tell the truth or tell a lie.

Email scam artists, for example, will tell you anything.

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In recent months email-using con artists have fraudulently claimed to be a general in the Pentagon, the media specialist of a state senate candidate, a member of the local law enforcement community, an acquaintance and Farmville service club member, and, most recently, a director in the United Nations.

Each of them either wanted to give me money or were asking me to lend them money, with the promise to pay me back once they used my money to fly home from some European hotel.

The scammers, in many cases, are evidently able to hack email accounts and use the names of people you know, folks who have sent you emails, which makes it more likely that someone somewhere might fall for the con. All they need is one person out of the thousands of people receiving scamming emails to fall for the scheme to make it worth their while.

Who knows how your own name or mine might have already been misused by someone putting words in our mouths in an email sent to con someone into believing the words are our own, even though we have neither said nor written anything of the kind.

The fake campaign media specialist, the fake local law enforcement officer, and the acquaintance in a local service club each claimed to have had their money and credit cards stolen in Europe and asked me to wire them money so they could survive until their new credit cards arrived. My acquaintance even happened to be out of town on vacation at the time. The actual media specialist was in the middle of the fall campaign, however, and the local cop was on the beat-that I knew. And I chuckled at the silliness of it all until I realized that scammers wouldn't be doing this sort of thing if it weren't catching some people out.

So all of us need to stay on our toes, even though some of the scams are so outrageous that the only falling you'll do is out of your chair from laughing so hard. Take the latest example of the email I received, claiming to be from the United Nations Payment Centre in London, and wanting to send me an ATM credit card that would allow me to withdraw $20,000 a day, from $7.8 million that would be loaded on the card for my benefit. Oh, and I'd be able to make unlimited purchases on line and in shops with the same card. All I needed to do was send them certain personal information.

Give peace a chance?

If the UN could get everyone in the world to spend all their time shopping with $20,000 a day nobody would have enough free time to bomb and blast people and countries they don't like off the face of the map.

On the other hand, there would still be an inevitable few who'd spend all of that money on weapons and delivery systems, so even mind-boggling, and in this case phony, largesse won't end conflict around the world.

Humorously, the fake UN email closed with these words: “Making the world a better place.” Well, yeah, if everyone had $20,000 a day there would be a lot less hunger and homelessness.

As with all scams, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Sadly, however, the world is full of stories about those who have fallen for what seem to the rest of us to be very obvious scams.

We can laugh if we want, but we should also keep our eyes open and our wits about us. Some cons aren't so obvious.