In 360 BC, a Greek businessman named Hegestratos secured a loan to insure his ship and its cargo of corn before crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
The agreement stated that when the cargo was delivered and paid for, he would repay the loan with interest. Any remaining money would be his.
Hegestratos thought differently. He schemed to keep the money, set sail in an empty ship, sink the vessel, and then sell the corn to another buyer.
His plan ended when he drowned.
But a precedent had been set; Hegestratos had passed himself off as an honest person in order to scam the insurers, who hadn’t yet had reason to think about avoiding scams.
Since then, nothing has changed.
The Costs of Scamming
Market Watch reported that Americans lost over $9.5 billion in telephone scams alone in 2017.
As to emails of the scam and phishing variety, the Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that Americans lost a quarter of a billion dollars.
CBS News technology analyst Larry Magid reported that while crooks can break into a person’s computer, they are more likely to trick people into giving up their passwords, their social security numbers, their bank account numbers and their identities.
“Basically it’s old -fashioned, low-tech crime being applied to a high-tech environment,” he said.
5 Low-Tech Scams in a High-Tech Age
There is not a dime’s width of difference between scammers, fraudsters and confidence artists – they are crooks. Here are some of the ways they rob young and old Americans.
- Scamming Older Adults: Scare tactics and emotional appeals – either face-to-face or over the telephone – to seniors’ hearts are used by scammers in charity cons, magazine marketing and grandparent scams.
- Health Fraud: These scams pose a risk to both your bank account and your health. Two of the more common scams center on the peddling of counterfeit drugs and food fraud.
- Identity Theft: One of the most common types of fraud, it can also be devastating in terms of consequences. Once your personal information is breached, it is difficult to say where it will go.
- Medical ID Theft: Not only does this robbery affect patients, it also affects the quality of healthcare and insurance providers. In 2015, one in three Americans were affected by theft of health care records. Scammers do this because medical records have a long shelf life and (unlike credit card and bank information) cannot be easily changed.
- Tax ID Theft: Tax Day is a field day for identity thieves. Using stolen personal information (names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers), these criminals file early in order to file a false tax return or claim tax benefits. This fraud is particularly pernicious because legitimate taxpayers may have no way of knowing the crime has been committed. That is, until the IRS contacts them.
How to Avoid Being Scammed
Quick tip: if you find yourself thinking, “Am I being scammed?”, trust your gut and keep your information close.
Be aware and question everything; here are some signs of a scam.
- New Online Friends: This is the “friend” who does not want to meet but will ask for money. Dump this person.
- Unexpected Phone Calls: The phone rings and a real or computerized voice asks to “verify” information that legitimate organizations already have or would not request over the telephone. Hang up.
- On-Line Sales: The stranger who wants a seller to take a check for an amount that is greater than the asking price and then asks that the buyer wire-transfer the in difference in funds is a blatant attempt to steal.
- Unrecognizable Emails: Phishing for the ability to install spyware (or malware), scammers send emails hoping they are opened, thus giving them the ability to go through everything on your computer. Do not open them or any attached links.
Fraud!Org is a very thorough source of information about what to do if a scammer has compromised your bank account(s), credit cards, credit rating or identity. To learn more, visit www.fraud.org/id_theft_general.
The Immediate Future of Scamming
Biometric authentication is a new, emerging technology that will replace passwords and other current forms of identification.
Facial recognition, body movements, voice authentication and heart-rate scanning are all a part of this effort to protect identity and finances, and will ultimately be how to avoid being scammed.
In the meantime, stay informed and do not give out any personal information on any social media platform unless absolutely sure of the entity to which it is released.
The Greek insurers in 360 BC should have done likewise.
If so, they would not have lost their money when Hegestratos went to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.