Frauds Expose Nature of the Heart
I’ve often thought if scammers would dedicate their time and talent to productive pursuits, it might raise the nation’s GDP by several percentage points.
Of course, phony fund-raising letters, million-dollar payout promises, and the like have been around for years.
But a rather scary story in the latest AARP Bulletin, “Lessons from Inside the Fraud Factory,” outlines an international industry out to scam as much money from unsuspecting people as possible.
As the self-described vigilante working to expose them says, “They will say whatever they need to say to get as much money out of you as possible.”
It’s enough to make you not answer the phone. Which is why I don’t pick up on any “unknown,” “name unavailable,” or other strange calls, whether on my home or cell phone.
Targeting the Informed
However, it isn’t just tech-challenged seniors scammers pursue. They even go after freelance writers and editors, a group that I look at as fairly intelligent and well-informed.
And yet, a few months ago one freelancer admitted to falling for the “overpayment” ruse involving a new editing job. The supposed author accidentally sent too much money and asked her to refund for the difference. Only after the editor deposited the check did she learn it was phony, and she lost a sizable sum of cash.
It’s gotten so bad that the Editorial Freelancers Association sent out an email to members recently, warning us to be careful. Online life has made it easier for fraudsters claiming to want editorial help to contact freelancers.
“We’ve recently heard of a new iteration of an email purportedly from an academic consultant with apraxia (an ailment affecting the sufferer’s ability to speak) and about someone using contact forms to threaten legal action for alleged copyright infringement,” the email advised.
One method suggested by an EFA member for checking on an apparently fraudulent message was to copy the suspicious part and paste it into Google and see what comes up. Chances are pretty good that if it is a scam, hundreds of other people received it as well.
Victim or Something Else?
The interesting thing about come-ons is how they can also expose the motives of the victims. Over the years I wrote several news or feature stories about supposed Christians bilking small fortunes out of other unsuspecting investors.
Yet the question that always emerged during discussions about such scams is how innocent the investors were. Any investment scheme paying three or four times the going rate of return should automatically raise red flags, but it may not for those hoping to profit handsomely from it.
One time I asked a businessman who told of getting high returns from a group how they could afford to pay three times the average then for Treasury securities. He insisted they were legitimate, but a few months later federal investigators arrested the principals and charged them with operating a Ponzi scheme.
That’s where the phony operators pay a high rate of return to the initial investors, luring more investors into the pool—while using new investors’ money to pay high rates of return. It’s a house of cards that ultimately collapses.
It’s why the old saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it usually isn’t” contains a lot of wisdom. So does Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is more deceitful than all things and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” (MEV).
When fielding suspicious emails, texts, or phone calls, the first question to ask is: Where is my heart?