Scott Adams’ recent Dilbert cartoon featured always unscrupulous Dogbert being interviewed as a financial expert. Asked, “What’s the best way to make money in today’s market?” Dogbert replies, “Fraud. It’s the fastest and has the biggest upside.”
Sadly, fraud is rampant in our society. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that online scams more than doubled in 2021 over 2020. Most scams target older people whose mental dexterity has declined. My email inbox fills up with scams EVERY DAY. Some tell me that my order has shipped when I didn’t order anything. Bank impersonators tell me there’s a questionable withdrawal from my account. Many variations claim I’ve been selected for a prize or am due a cash settlement. Once I got a desperate plea from our grandson who had been unjustly arrested and needed bail money. Inasmuch as Kit and I don’t have a grandson, this one was easy to spot.
Creative new schemes are unending. The most insidious are those that collect information about you and then pose as an institution with whom you have an account. Scammers can be very artful at recreating the logos and style of known corporations. But an incident that disturbed me the most came from a provider from whom I bought services. They desperately warned of dire threats and I needed their enhanced coverage. Experts warn not to respond online but to phone the company. After finally getting a live representative, she confirmed the email then tried to sign me up for enhanced coverage. That would have doubled my bill. But when asked specifically what the enhanced coverage would do that my current service wouldn’t, the representative had no answer. I concluded this to be a scam perpetuated by a legitimate business. The provider’s warnings continue to come. I’m still tempted to pay extra just to be safe. I pray that I’ll retain enough ability to discern between a wolf cry to get our money and a genuine threat.
We are swimming in fraud and there are serious consequences. Kit and I once lost a huge sum of money on a publicly traded stock fraud. I had followed all the guidelines for responsible investing. The fundaments—PE, regular dividends, diversification—looked sound. Stock rating services gave the stock a unanimous “Strong Buy.” Then suddenly the stock plummeted 90%. Somebody had discovered—probably by an insider tip— questionable reporting of revenue. First, he short-sold millions of shares and then called the SEC. Federal agents had then raided the offices. Everybody pointed fingers at each other. Nobody went to jail. The entrepreneur made hundreds of millions. Lawyers got richer. We got back less than 1% in the ensuing lawsuit.
Besides wanting to rant a little, I also hope to convey a warning. God might intervene to protect you, but He usually won’t. Therefore, don’t deceive yourself. Everybody’s mental dexterity decreases as they age. Many people cope by increasing their trust in others. A heavy dose of suspicion is more warranted. Fear can sometimes protect us.