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Protect yourself from scams and frauds

Man on the phone holding a credit card

Naomi García describes how to avoid scams we are liable to fall for by paying attention to what our body, heart, and spirit are telling us.

Associate Director for change, systems, conflict … 4 good, Michigan Conference

You’ve been sent a photo of an unfamiliar face on your driver’s license or passport. The digital image has the law enforcement case number circled, plus an electronic court order certifying that your “hard-earned money is protected.” Responding within 20 minutes helps them “stop the thieves.” The online merchant receipts appear as the real deal.

You take a phone call. A soft and urgent voice expresses relief, saying, “We’ve tried to warn you for some time.” Then, the voice grows with urgency: “Do not log in to your account, for the bad guys will see what you’re doing. They’ll get away. We won’t be able to catch them.”

You are emailed a link to a bargain air flight, and then periodic friendly text messages remind you of the upcoming itinerary. It caters to the hurried. A few days later, easy access to “tips for a great trip” is included. A subsequent text message adds, “Confirm your reservation or risk losing it.” An unavoidable “Confirm my reservation” button magically appears. The reward for clicking the button is a $50 charge on your credit card. The number to contact “helpful staff” is answered by an endless 8-bar loop of hard-to-hear music. Occasionally, a friendly voice reminds you how “important your call is to us.” And no amount of waiting yields a live person.

Your mobile phone receives a text message that alerts you: “Your $500 gift card reward is about to expire.” The message then becomes a convenient “get it now” button. Random e-messages soliciting a home for a seemingly generous offer is probably a scam. Countless examples of a generous soul responding are met with an unsuspecting shipping bill and no delivery.

Scam strategies include a hurried we-don’t-have-much-time-left urgency intended to isolate the victim. Creating an illusion of a reason to feel panicked is the purpose of their bullying and gaslighting narratives. Telling anyone, even a loved one, is forbidden because “enforcing the law depends on keeping the culprits off balance.” Fearmongering tactics, fake websites, secrecy, and clandestine maneuvers undergird their mode of operation. Claims “to protect your money” morph into “don’t let them talk you out of doing the right thing” and “keep your phone on at all times.” What is not said is their intent to disappear at any clue of being found out.

Pay attention to the warning signals your body, heart, and spirit are sending you. If the instructions feel confusing, secretive, underhanded, or dishonest, talk to someone you trust.

Check the images and documents for contact information. Do your own research to identify a real person to contact. Read or show what you’ve been sent to a legitimate law enforcement agency, attorney’s office, or courthouse. These professionals can easily identify warning signs and will advise you. Don’t call the number or click one of the convenient links the con artists provide. Each one leads to a cruel partner with a believable script legitimizing the scheme.

When it comes to scams of all kinds, call on your people. Together, we are more likely to counter any imposed isolation and the maltreatment it supports.

Last Updated on March 14, 2023

The Michigan Conference