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Unraveling Scams: Protecting Yourself Online

What will the next scam be?

On a daily basis, I receive emails stating how lucky I am to have won $1,000,000 or perhaps a brand new Lexus or a free trip to the Caribbean! My home phone (yes one of those hard wired phones) takes messages of my vast winnings. I even get calls and emails about one of my “desperate relatives” needing me to wire money to them. Who are these relatives? We have all seen it.

Predator’s Paradise – the internet, the technology that is available and human beings who are ripe for being taken advantage of. In my law practice, we have clients who call us before being scammed and then there are the unfortunate ones who come to us when it is too late. Predators love to fulfill our hopes and dreams or at least that’s what they say. And if you think you are too smart to be scammed, just think of all those investors who believed in Madoff; greed can be a great motivator.

I am particularly concerned for my senior clients who are frail and vulnerable. They can often be considered easy targets for the schemers. Recently, my father who is 87 years of age and spent the majority of his lifetime running a successful business called me about a call he received regarding his alleged winnings. We quickly resolved whether the offer was worth pursuing and I was pleased that my father was astute enough not to be taken advantage.

A few years ago, we had a client who had allegedly won the lottery but had to pay a fee upfront before he received his winnings. When we met in my office, I asked him why he was here – he wanted to know how he should send the money so he could get his lottery winnings. Sadly, this was the second time around for him. He lost his first $1,000 on his first lottery winning. Predators love to come back to those they have already taken advantage of.

My message for today – Remember the old adage: If it is too Good to be True, then it ain’t True. Please do not play into the scammer’s hands by asking more questions. Do not get involved. Do not think that you are smarter than they are – for they are very smart. If you are not sure, call one of your family members or a friend and run it by them. Unfortunately, there is someone out there that wants to fulfill your wildest dreams but it will be at your expense.

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