From the Editor: Scammers Are the Lowest of the Low
There are forms of life lower than scammers, but not many. Crawling through the gutters of the darkest corners of society, scammers prey on the unwary and the vulnerable, a trail of heartbreak and financial havoc spreading out behind them.
Often hiding across international borders, just out of the reach of law enforcement, these heartless swindlers traffic in deception by mail and telephone, as they have for decades. Today, protected by the swampy anonymity of the internet, they also spread their criminal virus through the digital vectors of email, text message and social media.
They lie, pester, pressure, bully and even threaten their victims relentlessly. They steal whatever they can get their grubby fingers on — hard-earned money, sensitive personal or business information — and often, having found their mark, brazenly come back for more.
You can almost hear the evil cackle of their laughter echoing out of their dark, dank boiler rooms.
A plague on all their houses.
But it’s not just them, folks. A lot of this is on us.
How many times do we have to be told, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? How many times do we have to hear, “A fool and his money are soon parted”?
And yet how many times do we click on that mystery link, send in that “processing fee,” helpfully offer to assist “Prince Alyusi Islassis” of the Nigerian National Petroleum Co. with the “transfer” of “US$40,000,000”?
Stop. Don’t do it. It’s a trap.
Falling for these scams in the hope of making a quick buck only enriches the scammers and allows them to develop the ever-more sophisticated schemes — the caller ID spoofing, the complicated wire transfer hoaxes, the malicious software — that can trick busy residents and business owners like those who generously shared their stories with staff writer Aimee Caruso for this month’s cover story.
It also diverts law enforcement resources that would be better employed trying to protect the truly vulnerable, such as the Upper Valley gentleman whose travails inspired Caruso’s report.
Last summer, the caregiver for this long-retired gentleman, whose anonymity we are preserving, shared with us a sheaf of more than 20 official-looking documents (he was getting about 18 in the mail every day), all of them declaring him the winner of vast sums — $1.21 million claimed one, $1.63 million said another, $3.45 million said a third. All the gentleman had to do was send in a “transfer fee” of $24, a “data fee” of $25, or a “paperwork fee” of $28.95.
According to the caregiver, in the course of a few months, the man had sent dozens of checks to these scammers totaling more than $2,000. She told his family and postal authorities and he stopped sending money, at least for a time. But the scams just kept coming — in the mail, and then by phone.
I feel my blood boiling as I write this. I hope you do, too. And I hope this month’s story gives you some of the information and resources you need to help protect yourself and those you love from these terrible people.
— Ernie Kohlsaat