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Jeb Bladine: Life is a scam, or so it seems

Life is a scam.

Overstatement? Perhaps. But today, on a massive scale, criminals continuously target human emotions and weaknesses in their efforts to steal from us.

They use threats, exploit fears, promise friendship, exploit trust and take advantage of greed. Through emails and cell phones, they can launch millions of forays in quest of the right victim at the right time.

Don’t be one of those victims, and don’t scoff at the possibility of being scammed. Remind yourself, your family and friends of today’s disheartening need to be suspicious of unknown people and circumstances.

Just this week: A phone message threatened my spouse with arrest if she didn’t call about an alleged debt; a colleague described an elderly women who lost $50,000 in a drawn-out “friendship” scam; news reports described a sophisticated email intrusion that redirected $500,000 in an ongoing real estate deal; and I ignored dozens of suspicious cell phone calls and emails.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Cell phone scams are skyrocketing. Cons can spoof your caller ID or mimic parts of known numbers. If you pick up, you may hear of a relative in jeopardy; the IRS targeting your bank account; an amazing opportunity for riches; offers to solve alleged problems with computers, home maintenance, regulatory actions, and on and on.

Unfortunate human realities come into play: Some people can’t say No, which is the secret behind door-to-door sales; many people can’t resist stressful confrontation, as shown by the famous 1960s Milgram experiments on obedience to authority; human are pre-wired to avoid threats through action without logical thought; victims of a low level con make “behavioral commitments” that motivate them into more risk seeking the big payoff.

Cheated people feel stupid, ashamed, and lose trust in themselves and others. You might wonder how someone could have fallen for that ruse, but remind yourself of how many files and links you have clicked in emails that potentially gave someone access to your computer.

I’ve developed some entrenched defenses against organized scammers, but, like most people, I’m not immune from exploitation by pathological liars. And since people tend to lose their defenses with age, the elderly frequently are targeted with tragic results.

It’s a global phenomenon, with universal solutions: Don’t respond to threats; don’t click unknown links; don’t provide personal information without confirming who’s asking; don’t let greed fog your common sense.

And don’t look down on people who get tricked … they could be you.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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