Put the Hammer on the Scammer!

“Cats have a scam going – you buy the food, they eat the food, they go away; that’s the deal.”
Eddie Izzard

I hate being scammed. Theft is bad enough. I bet each of us has a stack of stories to share regarding theft, especially if you have owned a business. We once owned an attraction and actually found someone who had stolen merchandise out of our own gift shop and was trying to hawk it to our own guests by the pool! Yes, theft will make your blood boil but getting scammed takes it to a whole new level…it gets you involved…it makes you part of the story line…it makes it personal.

Several months ago, a manager at one of our frozen yogurt stores received a call from somebody who told her that if we did not pay a certain amount of money before the end of the day, our power would be cut off. She was told that we had not paid our bill, but provided a method to take care of it over the phone. The manager called us immediately and in a few minutes, we determined with the power company that our account was in order and that this call was a scam. We shared this experience with our other store managers.

Recently it happened again at a different store. This particular person identified himself as a technician with a local energy company and said that our power was going to be shut off in an hour and a half due to non-payment. He asked our staff if she wanted to take care of it over the phone. She told him no because this scam was already attempted at one of our other stores. He then raised his voice and said “this is no scam!” She said “really, what is your call back number then?”. He then hung up the phone.

At another one of our stores this week, we caught this counterfeit twenty. It just does not stop!

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We have all probably received a letter in the mail letting us know that we could make ten million dollars if we would just send over our bank account information to someone from a country that we vaguely remember as actually being a country…or was it the name of a special burger down at the local diner?

Why are we so susceptible to being scammed? I call it the three Gs: goodwill, good citizen and greed. The first two are noble. The last one is a shame.

They go after our goodwill because they know we want to help the children or help the elderly or cure a disease. A request for a small donation in comparison to the awful state of affairs around you in the world makes you feel guilty for not participating.

They go after our desire to be a good citizen by using tactics such as the scams at our stores…that we had not paid a bill and were in trouble. They try to lure us into political donations by describing the chaos that will sure to follow if we don’t hurry up and donate to their cause.

They tap into our greed and our desire to get rich quick by trying to convince us that, out of millions, we were the lucky one to be chosen…and now with only a few small and minor actions on our part, such as giving them our social security numbers and bank account information, we can collect.

It is madness and yet it is happening everyday all around us. I did some research on line and found that the amount that is lost on scams each year in the United States is not in the millions but in the billions! How gullible are we???

I guess “very” would be the correct answer but it doesn’t have to be that way. What can we do to prevent it? Let me offer three suggestions from a list of many.

Slow It Down

When somebody is trying to scam us they want to take advantage of our emotions. There is a deadline that must be met and we, being the good citizens that we are, work hard to meet it. If you receive a communication that requires you to do something right then and there on the phone, just don’t do it. Do not give out your personal information. Slow it down. Get a phone number to call them back after you have had time to study the issue. If they will not cooperate with you on the phone tell them to send it to you in the mail, have a nice day and hang up.

Study the Issue

Take time to study the issue. Talk to friends, get professional help, or check your bank records. You can check on line to see if there is any discussion going on about the issue that concerns you. I have done this and it works. It is amazing how less vulnerable you are when you have information. With this information you are empowered to handle the issue and the scam artists will fall like flies because there are easier targets to scam than someone who is knowledgeable.

Discuss the Issue with the Caller

If there is a real problem, the person on the other side of the discussion will not only sound legitimate but also make sense to you. Just this last week my brother received a phone call from the water company and was told that the water on one of our commercial buildings would be turned off on Monday because we had been using water without a water meter. My brother was caught off guard because we purchased the building nine years ago and had it inspected when we bought it. He asked a series of questions, visited the site and made some phone calls. Common sense prevailed and a time was schedule to meet a city technician on site the following week without turning off the water. Clearly there is a reasonable solution to the problem but it required discussion. A scam artist would not have spent the time or trouble to get that far into the problem.

Don’t let the scammer take advantage of our goodwill and desire to be a good citizen. Most people I know are good down to the core. Don’t let the scammer take that away from us. We can be smarter than they are. And if he gets a penny or two out of us because we are too greedy…well maybe we deserve to get a setback every now and then. My experience is that something for nothing usually works out to be nothing for something.

We are just too good as a society to let the scammers change us at the core. I say put the hammer to the scammer and force them to get a real job.

I can send you a list of all the scammers in your area or a big bag of non-dairy, cholesterol free, gluten free, kosher and fat free Wisconsin cheese curds for just $19.95…go ahead… send me the money!

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