Money can't buy you happiness but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.

~ Spike Milligan ~

Scam Alerts: The Unfortunate Truth

March 27th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 29 secs

Scam alerts? Sure, I can sell you one of those...

Scam alerts are a unique feature of the web. Which is not surprising, given how many scams use this remarkable communication technology. Ironically, some scam alerts are no more than scams themselves. Like the recent Kony farce which revealed how a culture of pseudo-helping harnessed and duped (e.g. “Click Like and you can save a nation”). Clearly, web awareness has got a long way to go to provide proper protection. Take, for instance, the lack of scam alerts warning against cults.

Restricting the freedom of their members to prevent them thinking for themselves, cults oppress and exploit. The Internet for them has become a powerful medium for finding “new blood.” Yet where are the scam alerts to warn people of their hazardous influence? Little more than a ripple of concern is voiced.

Perhaps scam alerts need to be more penetrating? You don’t have to look far at the way things are sold on the web, for example, to notice a host of people swindling and abusing people’s vulnerabilities. Such dishonesty and shabbiness is ugly. Yet, while we have computer virus warnings, weather reports, and traffic alerts, where are proper scam alerts to warn us of the hazards we are being exposed to?

In the absence of anything but haphazard scam alerts, we need to be vigilant. That means constantly checking and questioning where people are coming from. Not to live in a cloud of suspicion, but to be open to the possibility of hidden agendas. Does that sound too distrusting? I’m sorry if it does. But, given the risks posed by cults, panhandlers, and criminals, it’s wise to be aware.

For instance, I go onto personal scam alert whenever I come across anybody claiming to have all the answers to life’s problems. They don’t. But, it can be a tempting message, typically wrapped up in quasi-religious mysticism or business success speak. Just joining up or putting your money down is their urgent call to action. Only then will all be revealed (until, that is, you get to the next rung).

Now of course there are many fine people using the Internet and we should be grateful for the hard work and service they provide. Unlike scammers, you can usually recognize them by their upfront, honest, and encouraging approach. Tested, what you met on the web would be what you’d get in person. Real people don’t need to hide behind a computer screen. They’re comfortable with the personal touch because they have nothing to hide and everything to gain by being upfront. Rather than letting the web be a haven for fraudsters, they want scam alerts to let everyone know what’s going on.

But the Internet is a very fluid thing, and con artists are adept at skulking in the shadows, only to reappear elsewhere. So it makes sense to develop your own inbuilt “scam alert triggers.” If you’re feeling hesitant, trust your feelings. If it feels too good to be true, listen to what your intuition is saying to you. Nobody is ever completely safe from such predators. But the common sense to avoid pressure sales tactics (e.g. “only 24 hours before the price goes up”) is essential. If you feel your ability to sort the delight from the dud isn’t there, ask a friend to be your scam alert expert. With vigilance and a questioning mind you can skirt around a lot of deception.  But using the web with trusted friends helps us go one better. The more we help each other, the safer our web experience can be.


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