Scammers May Be Closer Than You Think
Scams can be high-tech, low-tech, even no-tech. They can be accomplished through sophisticated computer programs or merely by going through your trash. Scams are committed by people involved in organized crime located continents away from you, or your neighbor down the street. In fact, many fraud victims are scammed by members of their own families.
Surprisingly, wealthy and financially-literate people are actually more likely than average folks to be suckered by an investment scam. A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. A scam artist can take a sophisticated person’s interest in obtaining a high-return investment, along with her elementary knowledge of bonds, and concoct what appears to be a believable story about "secret prime bank investments" that can bring great profits in a short time. The only problem is that these prime bank investments don’t exist and never have existed—regardless of how legitimate they may sound.
Perhaps you’re skeptical about an investment opportunity that sounds almost too good to be true. Your fears may be allayed when you’re told that many people from your own social circle, or even your church or synagogue, have invested with the person providing this investment opportunity—and all of them have received the promised substantial profits. This person even looks like you. He may have the same racial, ethnic, or religious background. He wouldn’t cheat you. He hasn’t cheated your friends and family. What could be better? Those are probably the same thoughts that went through the minds of millions of victims of a common scam named after one of its earliest proponents, Charles Ponzi. Ponzi paid off early "investors" with the money given to him by later "investors," using this as seed money to lure more people into his trap.
Scams can even take advantage of your concern about being scammed. You receive email that appears to be from your bank, credit card company, or online auction service, indicating that fraudulent activity has been detected on your account and that you must respond to the company immediately or your account will be closed. Unfortunately, the hyperlink in the email notice takes you to a phony site that uses information that you provide to make you a victim of identity theft. Perhaps you’re too smart to provide that personal information when directed to the phony site. Even so, it may be too late. Merely by clicking the link provided in the email notice, you may have unwittingly invited into your computer a Trojan Horse malicious software program that secretly gathers all of the personal information on your computer and sends it back to the identity thief.
Fortunately, there are clues in this type of scam. For instance, if you receive an email from PayPal that addresses you with a salutation of "Dear PayPal User" or "Dear PayPal Member," you can be sure that it’s not genuine email from PayPal. PayPal will always address you specifically by your first and last name.