One Friday night some years ago, there was a knock on our door. When I opened it, there stood a woman. She said she and her kids were hungry and asked if I could give her some money for food.
Taught as a child not to let strangers in and as an adult not to hand out money, when there are other options, I left the woman standing at the door, as I went to fetch some provisions from the pantry.
She left with a bag of groceries thanking me for my generosity.
A bit later I went out. As I headed off, I saw the woman walking down the street empty-handed. The food I had given her, as I discovered later, had been dumped in the trash.
I had been duped.
Scams are big business. Their goal is one: to con people out of money with no regard to the financial and emotional suffering of their victims.
People-in-need are popular cyber scams. Carefully crafted posts on social media and desperate messages asking for urgent funds prey upon our emotions in order to get us to open our wallets as wide as our hearts.
If you fall for such a scam, it’s not because you’re dumb. It’s because you’re gullible. Most people are trusting by nature and can’t believe that someone would fake a horrible illness or exploit the suffering of a child in order to scam others.
What’s more, most people find it hard to say “no”, especially when asked nicely. It goes against the social norms we grew up on. And, what makes it even more difficult to refuse an opportunity to lend a hand to a fellow human, is the fuzzy feeling that comes with helping others.
But, the real reason so many of us fall prey to people-in-need scams is that they cleverly prey on the sense of urgency, and we, in turn, are always in a rush. Consequently, we find it easier to just do it with the click of a mouse or a quick swipe on the screen than to delve deeper.
Here are a few simple measures you can take in order to stay safe:
Check it out: There are many websites that provide information about online scams. More often than not a simple Google search of the basic facts will provide you with the verification you need.
Check the image: Today Google offers image searches, which allow you to check where and when a photo has been used before.
Hover over the link: Should you receive a request via email – DON’T click on any links. Instead, hover over them with your mouse to check to see the URL. You’ll be surprised to discover that the URL and the name of the site are not always one and the same. This does not necessarily mean that something fishy is going on, but definitely worth further verification.
And, most important, when in doubt – chuck it out!
Cyber security is everyone’s responsibility. Make it part of your DNA.