Friday, March 7, 2008

This Must Be My Lucky Day... I'm a Winner!

Wow, have I been on a run of good luck lately. You wouldn't believe it. In the past 24 hours, opportunity after opportunity has come my way.

It all started when I opened my email this morning. First I saw there was a business opportunity to make BIG MONEY just sitting at my computer filling out surveys. But even though I can make over $100 an hour doing this, I probably won't need to, because a very nice lady from Nigeria who stands to inherit $6.5 million has offered to share it with me if I just act as her agent in the US.

Then later, when I visited a website, a message was flashing that I was their one millionth visitor and all I had to do was click to claim my prize. Imagine beating a million to one odds!

And I have people looking out after me, too. A nice man from Citibank has just informed me that there's been some unusual activity that threatened my account, but if I just click on the handy link he provided, and confirm my account information, he'll take care of everything...

OK, by now I sure hope you realize that I have been describing the most popular current internet scams. The lady from Nigeria is going to want some "good faith money" and the work at home guy is going to want a sign up fee, as is the millionth visitor company, before I can collect my "prize." And the Citibank rep isn't really from Citibank. Funny thing, when I hovered over the email link, it didn't point to Citibank at all. He was "phishing" (yes, it's spelled with a "ph") - No reputable vendor EVER contacts you to ask for information, so don't EVER provide it. If I thought I actually had a problem or needed to check my account, I would still exit my email program and go to their site directly.

Here are some other tips to avoid getting scammed:

1. Never send money to someone you do not know. There is a large family of scams that promise you a prize or a share of an inheritance, but they all end up asking you for money. Some will even send you a check that looks real (but isn't) and get money from you before you get the bounce notice.

2. Never pay an up front handling fee without some kind of "due diligence," like a "Better Business Bureau" lookup. In the case of the "work at home" guy, all I had to do was "google" his "company" along with the word "scam" or the phrase "make money at home"

3. Never click an email link unless you are certain of the identity of the sender and the authenticity of the link. In most cases, your browser will show you where the link goes just by hovering over it. But even if it looks legitimate, spend the extra ten seconds to type in the link you KNOW is legitimate.

4. Maintain a separate email address for internet signups. The free internet-based email services, such as hotmail or yahoo, are great for this. I use yahoo, and they have pretty good spam blocking, so I don't get that many of these time wasters.

So what does this have to do with "platinum years"? It is a sad fact of life that senior citizens are considered to be prime targets for scams of all kinds. They are more trusting, often are lonely and won't hang up on that voice on the phone.

So as boomers begin to hit retirement age, we are increasingly going to be targets as well. Which is too bad, because I've always thought that if these scam artists applied the same amount of effort into actually providing a worthwhile service for people, that they would make just as much money, if not more. Some of them are very creative... meanwhile, I'll blog on this topic from time to time, so that hopefully our generation won't make any of these scams worthwhile, and the scammers will move on. :-) Bob

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