Opinion

EDITORIAL: Exercise relative degree of caution

It used to be that one didn’t venture alone down a suspiciously dark alley for fear of being mugged. Technology, of course, has long since brought robbers to our doorsteps, via telephones and computers.

Judging by recent complaints from Peace Arch News readers, we can’t afford to relax our vigilance at home, with conscienceless scammers ever-ready to exploit age, infirmity, inattention or our own naturally trusting natures.

The young friend or relative-in-distress scenario is still alive and kicking, according to one recent call. The woman in question, a senior, received a call from a young man trying to give the impression he was her grandson.

“Hi, Grandma!”

“Who is this?”

“Who do you think it is?”

“Mike?” (or whatever the appropriate name is).

At this point, the scammer is armed with an identity, and with a few more leading questions will soon have enough to back it up convincingly.

The caller is, of course, in some predicament that requires the sending of money, and the easiest way is by providing financial information that will compromise the victim’s accounts.

Fortunately, the reader in question caught on before any information was passed on. But it’s a cold-hearted scheme, relying on seniors’ perceptions of the casual haphazardness of the young, and the fact that they may be delighted to hear from a usually uncommunicative relative.

Another reader said he recently made the mistake of responding to an offer to rid his computer of viruses and malware at a special price. It was a limited-time offer, he was told.

Thus baited, he was offered a series of options that tested his willingness to co-operate and compromise computer passwords – with the result that malware was actually installed, shutting down his system. He didn’t lose money, per se – other than having to pay for costly repair and file retrieval – but he still worries that his computer was mined for sensitive information.

Each of these schemes has a common lynch-pin – catching the recipient off-guard with a time-sensitive request, calling for a snap decision.

It would be a sad commentary on our times if we became so jaded that we mistrust every attempt to communicate with us. But we should never volunteer information on the spur of the moment.

Nothing is lost by a short time-out for careful consideration. A real friend or relative, or legitimate business, will respect a small delay.

If they don’t, it should provide the reddest of red flags.

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