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A World of Thieves and Pickpockets…

During the past week, I have been informed that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and several other well-known companies have an important position available and I have already been selected to fill it.  I have been informed that Southwest Airlines, Jet Blue Air Lines and at least one or two more have travel certificates ready for me to redeem – just click on the link.  I have been informed that virtually every major retailer, including Target and Walmart, is anxious to offer me a gift certificate -- if only I will click on the link and answer a few simple questions.  

jungle rootsEach day, I am presented with these “opportunities” as I sort through at least a hundred additional e-mails that offer all kinds of products and services.   And of course, there is still the occasional e-mail from the incredibly wealthy sick person who has nowhere to put $12 million and would be most appreciative for my help.  And all these e-mails are in addition to many others that have been caught by Spam-filter software that is struggling to outwit the cleverness of these senders. 

Of all these e-mails that come my way, only a few percent are legitimate.  Can you imagine any other situation or venue where 98% of everything that happens to you is attempted thievery?   How is it that we have become so tolerant and accepting of such a situation?   

The Internet has brought us many blessings.  By entering a few key words, we can find information on any subject.  We can connect with virtually anyone on the entire planet as conveniently as talking to our neighbors next door.  We can use the Internet to shop for products and have them delivered to our homes or businesses.  However, we can also get our pockets picked and our identities stolen and sold to a worldwide network of unscrupulous characters.

How are we to know that the e-mails we receive from a business are real or an attempted scam?  If I am offered an “upgrade” on an airline that I have not used, then that’s pretty obviously not legitimate.  But what if it’s not that easy to tell?  Suppose it happens to come at a time when I have made a travel reservation for a few weeks out and such an e-mail shows up?  It could catch me at a time when it would appear to make sense and I might respond.  Of course that is the objective of all these attempted scams.  It only takes a small percentage of users to become victims to make it a profitable business. 

In addition, we see almost daily reports of attacks on company databases – attacks that have been sufficiently successful to affect almost every one of us.  And to add insult to injury, what do we encounter when we attempt to pay for a purchase?   “Would you like your receipt to be sent to you by e-mail?”   And when we visit our local bank -- “We are going paperless; from now on we will send your financial statements by e-mail.”

It seems to me that we are truly living on the edge of a financial cliff.  It takes continual alertness and an awareness of each new technique that the thieves and pickpockets invent.  In the material world, as we used to know it, we could count of some protection from unruly characters by those designated to protect us.  But the Internet seems to be like the proverbial Wild West – with no sheriff in town.  The attempts so far to apprehend perpetrators have been few and far between.  Only when massive losses of personal information occur do we see any concerted effort to apprehend and punish.  For most of us, we have to rely on our own knowledge, caution, and common sense to keep us from being victimized. 

The end result of all this is that legitimate businesses desiring to use e-mail as a way to reach customers may as well forget it.  Since I have no way to tell if it’s a legitimate offer or a scam, I will most certainly not bother to open it.  Optimistically, we might expect that in time even the scammers will end up getting no responses and give up.  However, in the meantime we will all have to put up with a system that is in a very precarious state.  Unfortunately, it’s not a problem that we engineers can fix.  It will require countries to work together to root out and put out of business the unsavory characters that have found the Internet a playground with little risk of punishment.  This may take a while.

I would be interested to hear what techniques you have adopted to avoid becoming a victim of Internet scams.  Have you found e-mail filters that are effective but do not delete those e-mails that you would like to read?  You may contact me directly from this site, by e-mail at silzars@attglobal.net, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.           

           

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19916 NE 30th Ct. Sammamish, WA 98074 Call 425.898.9117 FAX 425.898.1727 Email

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