Fasten your seatbelt. This is not your usual “Lilly’s Leap into the Ludicrous” column. This is serious “bidness.” So serious it’s not in any way funny.  The grafters online are having a heyday. Buyers beware of what’s coming down the pike. Don’t believe every e-mail you receive. And Lord help you if you believe AND respond.

People are hurting because of the economy and this plague from down below. It has long-lasting, devastating results. Some may never recover their health and/or their finances. People are being laid off, businesses are closing. It’s like nothing we have ever seen. We’ve had it good, folks. Now it’s time to knuckle down and dig ourselves out of this mire. Gotta stick together and think before we leap and help each other.

Some of us are actually holding on by a thread — and a thin one at that. In general, when this happens, crime escalates. You might say, people’s true nature will out when the chips are down.

People who would normally follow the “straight and narrow” somehow slip into the ditch and get a little dirty by doing things that aren’t ethical and sometimes not legal.

Those of us who strive to be upright have to watch out for the culprits who are poised to take advantage of the less acute by means of a scam.

One of the most heinous is the computer “phishing,” which is actually an international organized crime pocket. They target the unwary and sometimes desperate individuals by using fraud and deceit to obtain private personal and financial information such as names, addresses, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers.

It’s not so hard to understand why folks get caught up in this tangled web. They are hurting and are grabbing at straws.

This is not something that’s happening in some other part of the world. It’s here and it’s now. Below is an exact copy of an e-mail I received:

The management of our bank has agreed to pay you the accrued interest of US $4.7 Million being interest accrued from initial deposit made sometime ago and withdrawn by The Bank Of Ghana. You are advised to send your names, address, telephone numbers, bank account and your ID for immediate transfer within 24 hours.  

Yours truly,

Mr. Steve Acquah

GM, Ghana 

Commercial Bank

Moreover, these emails will seem to come from an official source (like bank institutions or any other financial authority, legitime companies or social networks representatives for users). This way, they’ll use social engineering techniques by convincing you to click on a specific (and) malicious link and access a website that looks legit, but it’s actually controlled by them. You will be redirected to a fake login access page that resembles the real website. If you’re not paying attention, you might end up giving your login credentials and other personal information.

In order for their success rate to grow, scammers create a sense of urgency. 

Now, even the best of us will have a niggling little thought of “what if?” That is exactly what the culprits are counting on — that little niggling doubt that will cause one in a thousand to respond.

Phishing schemes often work by sending out large numbers of counterfeit e-mail messages, which are made to appear as if they originated from legitimate banks, financial institutions or other companies. They used hardware called encoders to record the fraudulently obtained information onto the magnetic strips on the back of credit and debit cards, and similar cards such as hotel keys.

Then there is the lottery scam. You may receive an email/letter/fax that claims that you have won a great deal of money in an international lottery even though you have never bought a ticket. The email may claim that your email address was randomly chosen out of a large pool of addresses as a “winning entry.” Such emails are almost certainly fraudulent. There is no lottery and no prize.

When my mother-in-law was still living, she had her identity stolen twice and she was forever falling for telephone scams. Why? She was a true “innocent” and she believed everything everyone told her. 

I would love to “get hold” of some of these unscrupulous jerks and “jerkettes.”

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