I’ll be going over a lot of different types of scams that happen online, but they all boil down to trusting the wrong people. At the end of the day, you must make a judgment call on whether or not to let new people and organizations into your life. The decision you make here is key, since going along with a scam could put you in financial danger, or (at the very least) make you a target for other scam artists.
There are three basic questions that you should ask yourself every single time you get a communication from someone who isn’t a close friend (be it online or in real life):
- Why is this person contacting me?
- Does this really make sense?
- Would I be embarrassed if my kids or friends found me reading this?
Let’s review them individually:
Why is this person contacting me?
There’s an old saying that goes something like this: If you can’t find the fool at the table, then it’s you. That’s the way it works on the internet. Here are some common scenarios that can seem legitimate upon first glance but actually aren’t:
- The person has inherited a lot of money and wants you to help her get it to the United States.
- The person has uncovered a horrible truth about the future of the United States and wants to warn you about the impending economic collapse.
- The person has secret political information about a massive scandal that she wants to share with you.
- The person has uncovered a secret (insert medical problem like “wrinkles,” “gout,” or “obesity”) cure and wants to share it with you.
Ask yourself this question: Why on earth would this person care about me? If he/she really had a cure/secret/bazillion dollars, then why would he/she be emailing me?
The answer to all of these questions is that this person wants your money. Let’s look at the above again. In every single case, the communication is designed to separate you from your money. It may just be a book or a bottle of magic potion, but every single one of these people has contacted you purely to separate you and your money. Therefore, you should immediately be skeptical of anything (and likely everything) they say.
Furthermore, you should ask yourself how they got your email in the first place. If you don’t know the person socially, then they’re likely sending out massive amounts of emails, hoping to catch one or two gullible people.
Does this really make sense?
Do any of the examples in the previous section really make sense? Sure, they’re all plausible. They all could possibly happen. But, when you step back and think about it, do any of them sound true?
You might be saying, “Well, you’re just a young person who doesn’t know what’s really going on in the world today! Things are different! There is a lot happening right now!”
I concede that it’s possible that there is a massive government conspiracy to overthrow American ideals and usher us into a new age of poverty and strife. I read about NSA surveillance and wars in the Middle East with just the same worry and concern that you do. But, I don’t read or respond to emails from people trying to capitalize on my fears. If you find yourself fearful for your future or safety at the end of an email, then you can bet money that they’re trying to scam you.
Would I be embarrassed if my kids or friends found me reading this?
The ultimate litmus test is whether or not your friends or family would be concerned to see you reading whatever it is that you’re reading. Instead of the old “What would Jesus do?” test, let’s start a new one, “What would my kids do?”
The reason that this test is so helpful is that it takes out the story element of the email pitch. In other words, you might be so worked up about the contents of an email that you can’t evaluate it unemotionally. Why not ask someone else to do it for you? The beauty of asking a dispassionate person for their opinion is that you’ll get an honest answer about whether or not this particular email or webpage is a fake.
If you’re at all embarrassed about looking like a fool, then alarm bells should be going off in your head regarding the validity of this particular email or webpage.
Putting it to the Test
Use this test: when you get any sort of suspicious email, phone call, or message
1) Why is this person contacting me?
- I don’t know why (3 points)
- I know this person, and it’s a friendly email (1 point)
- This person is trying to offer me a job, get me to help them with transferring cash, or sell me a book/video/product that the government doesn’t want me to know about (5 points)
2) Does this really make sense?
- Yes (1 point)
- No (5 points)
- I’m not sure (3 points)
3) Would I be embarrassed if my kids or friends found me reading this?
- Yes (10 points)
- No (1 point)
|3-5 points||It’s probably not a scam, but do a bit of extra research just to make sure.|
|6-19 points||It might be a scam. Call your friends/kids and ask for their opinion. Read the rest of this book and do more research into the topic.|
|20 points||It’s almost certainly a scam. Call the police if you have given any money or personal information to the crooks. Otherwise, discontinue all contact with the individual or the company.|
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