Can you recognize a scam?

There’s a scam for everyone, and that means everyone is a potential victim. Susan Grant

Nowadays everybody has heard about or been exposed to some scam. They are usually fairly easy to recognize, but once in a while, you might get fooled… Especially when it involves a relative or a close friend.

Early yesterday I received a dramatic e-mail message from a French friend who told me that she just discovered that she had larynx cancer. She was in the hospital waiting to see an oncologist and could not talk because of her condition. The message said that I was the first person that she confided to and that she needed moral support… and a small favor.
This message was written in good French (scammers are often bad spellers) and addressed to me.

When a close friend is involved, you instinctively feel sympathetic and lower your guard… at least I do. I pride myself to be a reliable friend and a comrade in need always deserves assistance.

The story presented to me was a little convoluted, but basically, I was asked for some money… immediately. I was willing to help, but the process involved seemed a little strange. I was told to go to a “bar-tabac” (a tobacco shop) and “buy 3 TRANS-CASH reloading coupons of 150 € then send the RECH codes of each reloading coupon by E-mail.”

 First of all, to my knowledge, we have no tobacco shops in California and my friend (who had been there before) should have known that. Secondly, I have never heard of Trans-Cash and have no idea how to deal with this.

Then, I happened to mention this story to my friend Noël, and he immediately asked me if I was sure that this was not a scam. This question took me a little by surprise, and I slowly started to think that he might be right.

I grabbed my phone and called France to try to elucidate this tale. The phone rang and I was surprised to hear my friend’s voice. I told her what happened and she immediately informed me that it was a scam and that she was aware of it. Somehow her account had been hacked and all her friends had received a similar message.

I was shocked and relieved at the same time. I thought that I was a little more worldly than Joe Sixpack, but to my embarrassment, I swallowed that sob story hook, line, and sinker, and I was ready to send some cash.

To sum it up

Especially during the holidays (AND during the pandemic), scammers are working overtime to take advantage of charitable people. Before opening your heart (and your wallet) to anybody, make double-sure that everything is kosher,  and above board.

Alain

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