It Didn’t Take Long

Mar 26, 2020

As surely as the sunrise follows the sunset, the scammers follow the newest opportunities. Here in Middle Tennessee, we were all beset with “roof inspectors” who were willing to climb up on our roofs and inspect - without cost or obligation- for any damage from the recent tornado.

In every instance, their climbing up onto your roof resulted in their discovering (gasp!) significant damage. Damage that your insurance company might “take months to get to, but our roofers could repair for you.”

No surprise, they could begin their almost instantaneously, but would require you to pay them a significant amount in advance while the insurance company was processing your claim. Having worked both a razzle booth and a flat store in a carnival in my long-ago youth, I can tell you that’s called “hook setting” in carnival talk.

It’s also called scamming, and it’s underway today as people are being victimized by hustlers pushing some sort of antidote, inoculant or other answer to the coronavirus.

Don’t grudgingly admire their imagination, initiative or ability to spot a weakness and exploit it, recognize them for what they are- thieves. They’d rather work to steal your money than work and earn theirs.

In the past 12 hours, I’ve gotten three solicitations telling me I need to stock up on fruits and veggies that won’t spoil during this extended Coronavirus lockdown. Surprise, you read through the scary language telling you that “many of the foods being stocked today are highly processed, immunity-lowering carbs and junk food” when we all need (wait for it…) “immunity boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that we can’t get enough of, even in fresh fruit and vegetables.”

As you’ve probably determined, they’re trying to sell me “the perfect SuperFood” -complete with 2-year shelf life, pre-powdered so all I need to do is add water, and best of all…no lines, no waiting, no putting myself at risk. They’ll ship it right to my door.

Here comes the clincher: If I act now, I can get this manna from the mailman for 51% off the normal price.

I’m not going to name these people, because they send me solicitations several times a week, every week, despite my having clicked their “unsubscribe” more than once. Saying they’re not a real, legitimate business, even with these kinds of sales pitches, invites visits from cash extraction specialists, better known as lawyers.

My noticing the rise in scams isn’t exclusive. The FBI has already sent out notices warning of scammers “leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both.”

Do some research before contributing to a charity online, don’t get into crowdfunding if you don’t know the crowd and what they’re funding. And for goodness sake, don’t give up your personal information because someone’s offering you money or other benefits in return.

Take my word for it, the boat loaded with Nigerian gold from a disgraced former prince has sailed. Ditto the scam letter that reads “Beloved, we were distressed to learn of your situation due to the coronavirus so we have discovered your long-lost uncle left 30-gazillion dollars in an account for you. All we need is your bank account information to transfer your money.”

In the past week, I’ve done enough online ordering to get a feel for how a legitimate transaction works. First, if you have safety procedures in place with your credit card company, you’ll get a quick message or phone call asking if you’ve just made a purchase. If you don’t respond negatively, they’ll conditionally approve it. Then, you’ll get a confirmation email from the seller, followed by a confirmation that contains an order number, shipping information and - this is important- the instructions on how to cancel the order if you’ve reconsidered.

Legitimate businesses, especially the small ones around all of us, are working hard to adapt - and survive- in a world that seems to be working against them. They’re doing things differently, from providing curbside carryout to home delivery, but none of them have decided that cheating you is the way to long-term success.

Support the people and businesses you know when you can. If you can’t, be careful where you do put your trust.

It’s sad to realize, but as long as there is trouble, the criminal will see opportunity.

Don’t be their next victim.

—Jim Shepherd