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Well, the old year is fast running out. It’s Christmas Eve already, WFHB News is on hiatus this week, and that means Bloomington Beware won’t be repeated in the evening as usual. So listen up and make a special effort to clue your friends and family in on any of this news they might be able to use.
We’ve reported on all kinds of frauds, con games and swindles this year, and still haven’t caught them all. Increasing global connectivity has been a hothouse for scammers; they’ve multiplied at an unbelievable rate, and this trend bids fair to continue in the New Year…so here’s a quick look at some of the traps and pitfalls they’re putting in everybody’s path, pretty much every day now.
Ponzi Schemes (or “pyramid schemes”) continue to sucker people into investing hard-earned savings in get-rich quick schemes. They always promise you a huge return on your money – but only the people who get on board first ever see any returns. The evil financial wizards who run these things simply keep recruiting more investors, and use their money to make payments…until the whole thing inevitably collapses, the promoter disappears with a pile of cash, and most of the people who bought into the scheme are left holding an empty bag. ANY investment which claims you’ll get a very large payback, very quickly, is seriously suspect. Don’t invest your money anywhere without checking things out very thoroughly first, or without talking to friends, family, or an investment counselor.
But beware of FAKE investment counselors. Senior citizens, especially, are favorite targets for people who claim to have financial credentials and experience – but really only have a glib tongue and gobs of greed – according to the A-A-R-P scamwatch. Someone you know well, someone a friend or family member has used for a long time, or someone who works for a large, long-established company, are the safest bets…and an investment advisor who finds YOU is much more likely to be a crook than one you find, after asking around and doing some serious checking.
Affinity Fraud is another oldie-but-a-baddie, and it often works all too well. That’s when the swindler targets a group of people who have something in common. It can be a shared interest in something – like cars, mystery novels, collectibles, or even membership in a church or some other perfectly legitimate organization. They play on your emotions, and build trust by pretending to share the common bond. All too often, they manage to bamboozle some innocent group member and get him or her to sell other group members on the swindle. Just because you heard about a great deal from somebody you’ve known all your life doesn’t mean you still don’t have to check it out yourself.
And there are many, many more – fake charities, phishing emails, data breaches at big companies – even if we could list them all, we don’t have enough time. But the good news is, checking things out is a lot easier than it used to be, if you can go online. The Better Business Bureau’s website at b-b-b dot o-r-g is a great place to start. The Indiana Attorney General maintains an excellent website – easily found with a quick search. And just searching for “scams and frauds” or something like that will turn up a whole list of websites from the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, and private organizations where you can search for people and company names, or keywords, and get tipped off before you get ripped off. Have a wonderful holiday ….and stay safe!