June 19, 2014

Editorial: How to avoid being a victim

No matter how many warnings are issued, people can still get taken by a good scam.

And, for ages, scammers have been coming up with new ways to rip off innocent victims.

Remember that movie “Paper Moon,” where Ryan and Tatum O’Neal played a father and child during the Depression who found ways to fleece people by using trickery and sleight of hand?

Now, the trickery is often electronic and the scammer isn’t standing in front of you.

Modern ripoff artists are smart. They find out information about you so they seem like insiders. They call on your home phone or contact you by email. They are practiced at seeming friendly, official and helpful.

Danielle Patnode of Chazy Lake can attest to all that. She is one of many local people who have been targeted by scammers.

She had a call from a pleasant woman who said that her personal computer had been tapped into and that her banking information was endangered.

The caller asked Patnode to enter some numbers on her PC, which she started to do. But Patnode’s husband overheard and started asking more questions, including the woman’s name, where she was calling from and a phone number where the Patnodes could call her.

Amid questions and calls, the scam fell apart, but Danielle admits, “They almost had me.” She shared her story as a warning to others.

Here at the Press-Republican, we get calls all the time from people who were victims or almost got scammed.

It might be someone pretending to be a relative in trouble asking for money orders or people wanting bank account information to help you avoid penalties.

Most people with a computer have received a request, supposedly from someone they know, who is “in trouble” overseas. Like this email received by our editor this week in a friend’s name: “I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, my family and I had a trip to Turkey, for a short Tour Trip unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed, all cash, credit card and Cell were all stolen from us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us. We’ve been to the embassy and the police here but they’re not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in few hours from now but we’re having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the bills the amount needed now is just $2,850 USD. ... Waiting to read from you so we can let you know how to get the money wired to us.”

Experts say: Don’t give any personal or financial information over the phone or by email to anyone unless you are 100 percent certain it is a person you know and trust.

The best way to beat scammers is to not fall into their traps.

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