Social Scene

Jay Leno says that there are few things he loves more than a stupid criminal. Unfortunately, there also are smart criminals. Our parents and grandparents couldn’t even dream of the cons we are susceptible to in the age of connectedness.

Some examples of modern-day scams include the person whose car was broken into at the long-term parking at the airport. Using the information on the car's registration in the glove compartment, the criminals drove the car to the owner’s home and robbed it.

Lesson No. 1: Make sure to not leave the registration/insurance cards, nor the remote garage-door opener, in your car.

Another person had his car broken into while he was at a football game. Things stolen from the car included the garage-door opener, some money and the GPS on the dashboard. When the owners got home, they found their house ransacked and everything worth anything had been stolen. The thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the house, and used the garage remote control to enter the house. The thieves knew the owners were at the football game, so they knew how much time they had to clean out the house. They even brought a truck to empty the house of its contents.

Lesson No. 2: If you have a GPS, don't put your home address in it. Put a nearby address (like a store or gas station) so you can still find your way home if you need to.

One lady had her handbag stolen. In it, she had her cell phone, credit card, wallet, etc. Twenty minutes later, when she called her husband from a pay phone to tell him what happened, he told her, 'I received your text asking about our PIN number and I replied a little while ago.' When the couple rushed to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had actually used the stolen cell phone to text 'hubby' in the contact list and got hold of the PIN number. Within 20 minutes, he had withdrawn all the money from the victims’ bank account.

Lesson No. 3: When sensitive info is being asked through texts, confirm by calling back.

A lady who was grocery-shopping at a local mall had left her purse sitting in the child seat of the cart while she reached for something off a shelf. Her wallet was stolen, and she reported it to the store personnel. After returning home, she received a phone call from mall security, reporting that they had her wallet; and that although there was no money in it, it did still hold her personal papers. She immediately went to pick up her wallet, only to be told by mall security that they had not called her. By the time she returned home again, her house had been burglarized. By pretending to be mall security, the thieves knew that they could lure her out of her house long enough for them to burglarize it.

Lesson No. 4: In such cases, get the caller’s name, and call the store directly to verify their identity.

How to protect ourselves from from unscrupulous swindlers and cheaters? Here are some tips:

Beware of suspicious emails

First of all, if you get an email that says: Discover how you can make BIG $$$ MONEY IN NO TIME, delete it immediately and place that address in your junk mailbox. By now, one would think that most people with common sense would know to do that. However, why do you think you keep on getting these types of emails? Because on some people, it works!

There are also those emails that you get from friends that say: Check this out! It is amazing. Look at the address from which it was sent. Even if it has your friend’s name, it may not be his or her email address. This is spam—delete it!

And do still get unbelievable offers from the Nigerians? By now, everyone should know it’s an attempt to make you part with your money!

Also, if you get an email with an attachment, be careful. Even it comes from a trusted source, pay attention to the extension of the attached file. So, for instance even if you get an official-looking email from your bank, be careful before you log in. Scammers design emails to look like bank and other financial institutions (they may even have the trusted company’s official logo!), and then lure you by having you click on innocent-looking links. Contact your bank via phone or go their website and log in, rather than taking a chance. What the scammers want is for you to click on the link, and that may cause an ’infection’ on your computer.

Keep your anti-virus software up to date

Make sure your computer has anti-virus software, and make sure it is up to date. There are, unfortunately, new viruses and malware all the time; and therefore, keeping an update version of your anti-virus software is essential.

Keep your passwords safe

One of the ways scammers get to online accounts is by hacking your computer; that is, they ‘guess’ your password. Never use simplistic passwords like ‘password’ (or your birth date or your dog’s name). Always write down your passwords on paper and keep it safe. There are password-generator programs that create unpronounceable codes that you can use for passwords. Write these down and keep a list.

There are many more ways for dishonest people to scam you, and there are many more ways to protect yourself. In future articles, we will continue the discussion.

Longtime editor, writer and publisher Richard Gavatin is owner of IMS, Inc. (, a computer consulting company that specializes in the support and customization of accounting software. He can be reached at

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