If It’s Too Good to be True…

It probably isn’t true. We talk about discernment, and how important it is to use discernment with information from the Internet. And yet don’t we all wonder, from time to time, just what if we had sent that money to the widow of that government official in who-knows-what country? Maybe, just maybe there was something to it. And if we had just sent that $25, or was it $2500, could we could be millionaires today?

Well, maybe we haven’t thought about it, but enough folks have, that your accountant and your bank most certainly have warned you, and the FBI issues regular press releases to warn us all about these online scams, inviting us to “visit our White-Collar Crime and Cyber webpages for more fraud schemes.”

Here are two of the most common “phishing” tactics my accountant sees:

  1. Phone calls or emails from someone claiming to be from the IRS. Don’t fall for this one she warns. Usually the caller threatens some very serious consequences if you don’t send money to clear up the situation, or provide some personal information that would give the caller virtually total access to your finances. The IRS will not contact you by phone, she said.
  1. Most often, very little is put in writing. Most illegal contact is likely to be either by phone, or even in person, possibly with someone coming to your home, or to your office.

My banker says some of the clues she sees in the emails brought to her for scam checking include English language grammar, spelling, and usage errors and inconsistencies. She noted that the awkward use of tenses is particularly common. And of course there are always those obvious scams, the “I am the widow of…” emails asking you to send money.

The FBI notes a recent increase in cyber criminals using online photo-sharing programs to infect their victim’s computer with malware. When requested, the cyber criminal will send photos either as an email attachment, or accessible by a link they provide to an “online photo gallery.” The photos may contain the malicious software that affects the victim’s computer.

Bottom line:

  1. Do not click on any email links if you don’t know the sender. The best course is to delete the email without opening it.
  1. Big-time scammers may go to all lengths to get your information. They may pretend to be a legitimate organization you’ve heard of. Their material may appear legitimate, with the website, online “store,” and even technical assistance closely replicating the “real” ones of the legitimate company or organization they imitate. If you did not request this email, double check.

Obtain the “real” contact information from a reliable third party source. If the contact information in the unrequested email does not agree with the “real” contact information, it’s likely to be a scam. Do not provide any information to, or fill out any forms from any company or organization you do not know – no matter how threatening or scary that email may sound.

So, be discerning, and make sure the younger members of your family are as well. They make excellent victims.


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