As we shift more and more to internet connectivity in our lives, perhaps we don’t give enough thought about trusting strangers online. People seem to have gotten used to services like Amazon and place too much trust in online vendors.
In years past, conmen slowly worked themselves into peoples’ lives, gaining trust over months or years, before stealing everything they owned. They worked hard to get keys, bank account numbers, and vital personal information.
Digital information storage makes the possibility of personal attack very real and very immediate. It doesn’t help that there are few societal taboos concerning talking to strangers online. People develop whole relationships with fictional people – only to be crushed when the “expensive” truth is learned.
What used to take someone years to steal can now be taken faster than reading to the end of this sentence. In a moment, with bank account in hand, a cybercriminal can use clues to get your password or figure out how to exploit what are now your many other online vulnerabilities. Those online “challenges” to see if you can post all of your childhood memories are just information scams to get people to reveal key items for identity theft.
Knowing how fraudsters operate gives you some protection. One scheme targets people selling items on various online classified sites. It involves buying the item and having someone deliver a check to you for a little MORE than the selling amount. You are then supposed to give the item and the extra cash to the person who picks up the item. When the check bounces, they are nowhere to be found, and you are out the extra cash and the item sold. This scam frequently occurs with online person- -to-person car sales, where you literally give someone hundreds of dollars and your car–and there is not much that can be done.
A second tier of fraud is the rental scam, where people are tricked into giving phony online real estate people down payments on homes, cash for rentals, or other transactions on property the scammers don’t own or control. When the real owner shows up to find out why you are in their house, it is uncomfortable to say the least.
You have done nothing wrong, but trust too much. Both criminals and consumers are getting smarter and a little wiser. Make sure you:
- Know who you are interacting with.
- Never forget that if it seems too good to be true, it is.
- Ask for professional opinions on large cyber sales and transactions.
- Visit USA.Gov to help you with online fraud complaints.
Before making large financial commitments to unknown people—and even after the fact–it is a good idea to consult with a professional. Attorney Greg Gouner has helped many clients with financial “misunderstandings” and can share his insights on how to make sure you don’t get scammed.
Written by Ted Baldwin