(Don’t Fear) The Scammer

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It’s a spooky time of year, the end of October. Everywhere you look, it’s ghosts and monsters and Christmas decorations. (Really? I’m serious, retailers of the world; really?)

And of course you have the inevitable horror movie marathons, where the intensity is elevated a bit (less innocent “Boo!” and more…visceral forms of scary entertainment).

But even beyond the usual seasonal fright-fests, there are a lot of things out there for people to be afraid of. I mean, have you ever watched an episode of The Doctors? That’s not just a hangnail, it’s a reason to panic! Literally everything is presented as cause for alarm. Hair turning gray as you age? You’re going to die in ten minutes! AAAAAAA!

Of course I’m being hyperbolic there, but only a little bit.

So that’s what I want to address today. I’ve written over 180 posts on topics ranging from phishing emails to medical identity theft. If you were to sit down and read twenty of them in a row with the incorrect mindset, you might walk away very, very afraid.

That’s not what I’m going for here. “That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.”

Sure, there are a million different scams and schemes, tricks and traps. But to live in fear of scams and to let it dampen your enjoyment of life is going about it all wrong.

How many people have been nasty to cashiers at Walmart because of an urban legend about the so-called “cash-back scam” (which I recently saw presented on a news website as fact)?

How many people refuse to do any online banking or bill paying, despite the fact that it’s actually safer than mailing checks and takes about one-tenth the time investment, out of identity theft fears?

There’s just no reason to react to the world in this way. Trust your instincts—if something seems unusual or out of place, it probably is. Follow the basic rules, like not clicking on links in emails, knowing what phishing looks like, and knowing not to give personal information to a caller or let strangers into your house. Know that you’re never going to get anything but scammed if you receive an unsolicited job offer via email.

Keep it situational; if you’re in a situation that’s ringing your “this seems like a scam” bells, then go on alert and keep yourself and your money/identity safe. Get a free credit freeze if you live in Indiana (and check into your state’s resources if you don’t).

But don’t walk around looking for fraud—you do that long enough and you won’t even trust your own mother by the time you’re done. Know the basics, pay attention, and relax.