You are probably pretty good at your job – whether you are an engineer, a geologist, a lawyer, a doctor, or a stockbroker. Scammers are thieves. And thieves steal for a living – and, just like you, they are pretty good at their job.

Scammers go after vulnerable people, like the recently widowed, the elderly, the lonely, the bored, and those who worry about their health or financial status. And they like to appeal to “greed” – who does not want to make a quick buck? Like I said, scammers are good at their job – so they direct their work towards those who may be vulnerable or to those who want to “get rich quick.”  If you fall into any of these categories, or want to get rich quick, be especially careful.

Here is a case in point. A recently widowed individual lives alone – scammers know that many widows do live alone. The scammer reads her husband’s obituary, the scammer “Googles” the deceased and learns that the deceased had an interest in supporting local artists. So, the scammer introduces himself as a friend of her deceased husband just to thank her for her husband’s past support. The next step is to ask for monetary support for a new art project, which, by the way, her husband was very interested in – over a cup of tea, of course. This actually happened!

Here is another case in point. An IT executive here in Austin exchanges IT technical information in an online chat room. Some valuable information is exchanged, and innovative ideas gained. One day, one of the participants lets our executive in a really good deal – invest your money in a bank in Singapore for an assured 25% return. Hey, why not – how about $5,000,000? Unbelievably, this actually happened!

What to Do? What to Do?

Realistically, there is a pretty good chance that you will be a victim of a scam. Like I said, they are pretty good at it, better at scamming than you are at defending against the scam. But you can minimize the risk and reduce the risk of a substantial loss by doing the following:

Financial institutions want to protect you – give them the tools to do so. In the case of the IT executive, the financial institutions repeatedly advised him, by phone, email, text, and letter, NOT TO DO THIS! Perhaps if a wife, child, or business associate had been added as a trusted contact – so the financial institution “could” have told them about the pending transaction – well, it might not have occurred.

          I cannot emphasize the importance of adding a trusted contact. Financial institutions are not free to “share your information” with family members and business associates – even though they may be very concerned and genuinely want to help. This is a very important “fail safe.” And by the way, financial institutions are not going to protect you – in the final analysis – you will be responsible! “Hey, did you do what I asked you to” may ring “hollow” after the fact.

  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

I learned this lesson while practicing law in Chicago. If that oil well in Mississippi is such a good prospect, why isn’t ExxonMobil looking at it? Do not invest in oil wells. Do you think every geologist in the world has overlooked this tremendous opportunity?

  • Never open any email that looks suspicious, and if you do, never click on any link in it.

Even if it comes from a friend, be careful. You can call your friend to confirm that the email was from him or her.

  • Poor grammar and spelling are often a sign it is a scam.

If it comes from a friend, call and confirm. Otherwise, delete and ignore.

  • Scammers usually do not know your name as they are sending lots of emails or texts at once, so they often address it “dear customer,” “dear madam” or quote your email address rather than use your name. This is often a tell-tale sign.

Delete and ignore. There are no exceptions. Dear Customer? Don’t you just love the “personal touch” that scammers employ?

  • Never trust caller ID on your phone, especially when the caller asks for private information.

Rarely a day goes by where someone purporting to be from Google, JP Morgan Chase, or Fisher Investments does not call – emphasis on the word “purported.”  I assure you the callers are not from Google, JP Morgan Chase, or Fisher Investments. But do not believe me, call the home office of each, and ask.

  • Never give out personal info on an email, text, or call. Banks never ask you for that info over the phone or by message. Call them back using a number you find independently, if unsure.

Like I said, if someone from JP Morgan calls you  – go over to the local branch office. I bet it is a “scam.”

If you want to give away your money – give it to St. Judes – or better yet, mail it to me.

Do you really believe that the senior executives of Dell Computer trained at a for profit, online educational institute?

While far from perfect, this is easy to do – do it for an elderly parent as an early Christmas Gift.

Trust me, I am as cynical as the next guy about the government – but law enforcement is trying! But we must do our part and give them the tools – by the way, when you next rub shoulders with an elected official, ask them to explain what they are doing to support law enforcement in this critical area (e.g, funding anti–scam divisions). Think about it a minute, the police officer on the street does not know a great deal about internet scams – it is going to take a different type of  law enforcement professional.

  • Use the internet to protect yourself.

Just for fun, I “googled” “Singapore scams.”  Look what I found – and if found it, anyone can find it!

[Singapore] More than $210 million cheated in top 10 scam types last year:  the top four scams of concern are e-commerce, social media impersonations, loan scams, and banking-related phishing scams.

  • If you get scammed, report it to the police, the FBI, and consult an attorney.

Realistically, there may be little that can be done – but make sure you exhaust your options. Too often the victims are so embarrassed and ashamed that they do not report the scam. That is a big mistake!

by Jack M. Wilhelm

Edward Wilhelm and Jack Wilhelm provide tremendously high value legal assistance to a large number of very desirable clients.

THE WILHELM LAW FIRM, 5524 Bee Caves Road, Suite B5, Austin, TX  78746; (512) 236 8400 (phone); (512) 236 8404 (fax);

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is not intended to and does not offer legal advice, legal recommendations, or legal representation on any matter. You need to consult an attorney in person for legal advice about your individual situation.