You Think You Are Too Smart For Scammers? Maybe You Are Not

Are you aware of the terms identity theft, scammers or phishing?

I guess since we live in 2021 we all should be more or less aware of these terms even though we might not know exactly what they mean.

Let me start this post by giving the explanations of these terms.

According to Cambridge dictionary a scammer is a person who commits fraud or participates in a dishonest scheme.

Phishing, on the other hand, is a type of social engineering attack often used to steal user data, including login credentials and credit card numbers. It occurs when an attacker, masquerading as a trusted entity, dupes a victim into opening an email, instant message, or text message (https://www.imperva.com/learn/application-security/phishing-attack-scam/).

Identity (ID) theft happens when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud. The identity thief may use your information to apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name (https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft).

As some of you may know, I have studied informatics and worked in IT companies for several years, so I consider myself a bit more aware of the many faces of scamming than most people are. However, it has happened to me also and all I have to say is that only one moment of less attention is enough.

Let me share some personal scammer experiences.

The Credit / Debit Card Scammer Websites

Woman hand shopping from website using credit card
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

This must have happened more than 10 years ago. I was so eager to buy a specific and old limited edition of a book that I just couldn’t wait. I had searched about it in every bookstore online and managed to find it in only one which I had never visited before. Everything seemed ok and there was nothing that could make me suspect that something was wrong.

When something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.

The first mistake I made was that I wanted to have that book as soon as possible, so I did not take time to do any research regarding the credibility of the specific online bookstore. I proceeded and made the purchase using my debit card.

When I pushed the button to pay it seemed like I had a problem loading the page. I got no confirmation that the payment was completed nor that it was not. I suspected that something was wrong so I did not repeat the process to buy the book again, but I took no further action, just closed my browser and forgot about it. The damage was done.

The scammers had already collected my debit card info. Smart thing on their behalf is that they did no transaction using my card for more than a month. I even forgot that something out of the ordinary ever happened.

Back then I used to check on my bank account transactions on specific days every month and paid attention only to transactions that were over 50 euros. This is why I missed what they were doing for more than a year.

Check your transactions regularely.

They would collect 20 euros out of my account every month and within the period I would probably not check my account. When I realized what was happening I had already lost the total amount of 300 euros.

I know you might say that 20 euro is not such a great amount. But what if they do it to hundreds or thousands of people at the same time?

When I found out what was happening I checked all my transactions to check how back would that go and realized that it was happening every month (not on specific date) for more than a year. I contacted my bank and canceled my card, also sent them a report of all these transactions that were not done by me. The bank refunded me with the lost amount and it ended there.

The Family Emergency Scam

A man pushes a stretcher into an ambulance
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

Last week some lady called my mother crying and impersonating me while she was telling her that I was involved in a car accident and I would lose my leg if I don’t get surgery right away. For the surgery to take place money was needed and to make it easy for her somebody would go to her house to collect the money.

I had informed my mother about this type of fraud and since I live away she suspected them. She just let her finish what she had to say, wished her luck and hung up the phone. She then called my mobile to say good morning and when made sure that I was fine she told me what had happened and we informed the police.

Contact the person in need yourself through the contact information you have.

The same day my aunt, which is over 90 years old with lots of medical issues, had a similar call. She totally believed it and almost collapsed out of her fear. They were asking for money and she had none since she had not received her pension for the month yet. She was in awful condition because she felt that she could not help her daughter.  

When the scammers were convinced my aunt really had no money they could steal they hung up. She immediately called her son to inform him about the accident and ask him for money. He suspected the fraud. Her daughter was fine of course but my aunt was terrified for days afterwards.

The PayPal Scam Email

the paypal logo
Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

Few days ago a friend of mine, who was selling a piece of furniture through a really credible site, was contacted by someone who wanted to purchase it. The contact was through email but was really normal. Nothing strange that could make you suspect. They talked a bit about the price and when they both agreed she asked my friend for a PayPal account where she could deposit the amount and she would take it through a shipping agency.

Especially this part of the PayPal account made my friend feel even more confident that it was ok. The “buyer” even asked my friend for her Viber account to contact her when the deposit would be completed so that she won’t miss it. When the deposit order was given she told her that she would receive an email and had to reply that she accepts the deposit in her PayPal account.

My friend had not used PayPal again for money exchange between 2 individuals so she was not aware of the process. But it did not seem strange to request permission for a transaction when money is involved.

What should seem suspicious is that the email asking for permission went to Junk emails and not normal Inbox as the rest of PayPal emails. However, she was eager to complete the process and continue whatever else she was doing. After all she was just going to accept money to be deposited in her account. Nothing more. And we are talking about PayPal accounts. What is the worst thing that could happen?

The email she received was using PayPal logos and formal language convincing enough that it was what it was supposed to be. She replied that she accepted the transaction and minutes afterwards she received another email from “PayPal” stating that her acceptance was binding and what she had accepted was a deposit of a much larger amount in her account which also included the fees of the shipping agency that was supposed to transfer the furniture.

Verify the validity of each request involves money transactions by contacting directly the sender through official contact information, not the contact information that exists in the email that looks suspicious.

In order for the full amount to be released and end up in my friend’s account she should first deposit the amount to the shipping agency on its web site using her card. Of course my friend did not visit any hyperlink nor did she even think of paying anything. She decided to keep the furniture and search for another buyer.

However, having in mind that the communication was with PayPal, she replied to this second email that she denies the transaction. This second email was full of disclaimers about the PayPal policy on online transactions and all the laws that protect peoples’ money.

After the denial email was sent, her Viber did not stop…The “buyer” kept on calling her to increase the pressure on her. My friend did not answer the calls and then messages kept coming saying in a few words that “You stole my money! You will get in trouble and get arrested”.

At the same time another email arrived again from PayPal stating that her denial to accept the transaction she had already accepted was illegal and that she should face the law if she did not complete the requested payment within 3 hours.

Scammers try to evoke fear and make you believe that you are in danger.

My friend, terrified forwarded me the emails asking for my advice and updated me about the full story. I advised her to continue not answering the calls or messages. To contact her bank and PayPal to report what happened and afterwards to contact the police.

Of course it was not PayPal behind this. My friend’s bank and PayPal account were not in danger since she did not proceed with giving away her card information.

How To Protect Yourself From Scams

1. Stay Alerted For Scammers As Much As Possible.

It would be nice if everyone was honest and legal but scammers do exist. Be extra careful with your personal information. Potentially any new contact could be a scammer.

2. Try To Be Aware Of Who You Are Contacting.

Either we talk about a person or about a business, like an online store, try to do your research and find out more, use google search or check if you know somebody else who has met them or shopped from there. If a friend of yours or just somebody of your contacts sends you a message that you find strange, try to contact him / her directly to confirm that the message was sent by them.

3. Be Extra Careful With e-Mail Attachments And Hyperlinks

When you receive emails that for some reason seem suspicious do not open attachments or click on hyperlinks. If the contact is let’s say your bank or PayPal asking for your action verify the validity of the request by contacting directly to the sender through contact information you get from another source, eg. Google search.  Do not use the contact information that exists in the suspicious email.

4. Be Careful While Doing Online Transactions

Do not share your bank cards info unless you are absolutely sure that the specific site is trustworthy and secure. While doing an online transaction if something out of the ordinary happens, you should better leave the transaction for later. Try to contact someone to report the incident, either the e-shop or your bank. If it is not possible, check your account regularly for strange transactions.

5. Make Sure All Your Personal Information Are Secured

Share sensitive information carefully and only with people you trust. Do not share too much of your personal information on Social Media. Make sure you review your social media account security settings. When you identify something suspicious in social media make sure you report it.

6. Make Good Use Of Passwords

Secure all your accounts, computers, mobile devices and Wi-Fi network with passwords. Try to memorize all of them and don’t have them written anywhere. If that is not possible make sure that you keep them somewhere where they are secured.  Make sure you choose secure and complicated passwords that you change them regularly. Do not use the same password everywhere.

7. Be Extra Careful With Unfamiliar Payment Methods

When you are asked to use a payment method which you have not used before you should better avoid it. If you have reasons to believe that this new method is safe, try to do your research and / or ask a friend of yours whom you know that is familiar with it to make sure about all relevant details. Avoid using visual currencies eg. Bitcoin as these transaction methods are not as protected as other transaction methods. This means that once you send your money you won’t get them back.

money made through scamming
Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

Conclusion

I used to receive those emails about the lottery ticket I won or the heritage that a rich lost relative had left for me for which I should pay a small amount of money for the legal issues to have the foul amount and I was thinking that these scammers are looking out for fools.

Yes, some of the methods scammers use are absolutely ridiculous for somebody who is even the least suspicious. But nowadays they evolve their methods and become more sophisticated. They try to become as believable as possible. The more suspicious people get the more sophisticated the scammers become.

Scammers want to take advantage of your even one minute of not paying enough attention. They use human feelings to their benefit. They want to cause you fear and frustration in order to make you not think clearly.

Scammers target everyone and we all might be vulnerable to scammers from time to time. Protect yourself and stay safe!

Did you have any similar experience?

More information you may find at the following links:

Are we turning into some kind of social weirdos?

I believe that all of you would agree that the Covid-19 pandemia brought huge changes to the way we all used to live our lives. It has also made us change the way we act, and react, in several cases. Most of all, I think that now we all, more or less, try to avoid several things that we wouldn’t do so in pro Covid times. I am sharing my personal experience regarding the way that my social life and behaviour has changed during this last year.

Avoiding the office

Since March 2020 I have been working from home. It was not my decision, but it happened. To me this was a huge change since I would normally spend more than 12 hours a day at the office, or on the road, going to, or leaving from it. To be honest this change is not that bad. The job itself can be done from the comfort of my own apartment. What I do miss is the social part of my job. I haven’t even seen any of my co-workers in person since March 2020. Even though we have daily zoom meetings it feels cruel cause the interaction is not the same. I miss our after work Friday night drinks. Actually, I miss going out and having drinks in general but that is another story.

Avoid supermarkets and stores

If I can shop online then this is what I do. Back in the old days I would visit the shops without even wanting to buy something. Just to walk around, see the shop windows, maybe even try some clothes just for the fun of doing it. Well, I don’t anymore. I might spend hours browsing but it should be something really extreme for me to go out and actually look for it. 

Avoid public transportation

I used to love moving around using the subway. It always gave me the feeling that I was able to feel the pulse of the city and of course it is so much faster than driving through traffic jams. Now, even the thought of it repels me. Too many people, too close one to another. No, not for me. Not anymore. At least for now.

Avoid social events

Just a week before my country entered a lock down for the first time I had a party. I used to plan social events and now I choose not to attend to any of them. Yes, back then I used to be a social person.

Avoid meeting in person with someone unless it is absolutely necessary

I used to turn every phone call to a meeting. I always felt that meeting someone in person helps to deal with every possible problem. Even if something is hard to deal with, meeting someone would somehow make things easier and smoother. Now, the prospect of meeting with someone when I can avoid it seems that makes no sense.

Avoid getting too close to other people

Even when I meet with close friends and relatives I don’t get too close to them, I avoid shaking hands, hugs and kisses. Every kind of human relationship is important to me, but I feel that I am somehow getting trained not to be as demonstrative as I used to be. 

Avoid others out in the street

When I go out for a walk or running I try not to get too close to strangers. I would even choose another route just to avoid the crowd. I used to be the person who would go for a walk just to see other people moving around and now I feel like I run away from them.

All the above came as a result of the fact that social distancing was the master rule in order to protect myself and others from Covid -19.

Sooner or later, we will get rid of Covid, but I honestly don’t know how socially weird I might have become since that day.

Did you have similar changes in your social life or behaviour?

I would like to learn about your thoughts on this.

What does find yourself mean?

And my question to all of them is:

When have I lost myself and I have to find him?

I think that “find yourself” actually means never forget about yourself. Never forget the things you love and make you happy. Don’t get distracted by the everyday surviving struggle and forget what’s worth being alive for.  

We all do that. Many of us from time to time have to keep a job that we don’t like because it pays our bills. Will we ever be truly happy in this job?

I don’t think so.

Will we ever become successful in this job?

I don’t think so either. And that is because I think that nobody can become really good at something that he does not care enough about. 

We say to ourselves that this job is just a temporary thing while we will also be working on writing, painting, or whatever you want to fill in. But, while doing this temporary job we manage to have an income, we plan things based on this income, and as the time passes we might have more people in our lives depending on this income. 

After a while, the everyday routine which initially included, apart from the 8hours temporary job, at least 2hours of daily writing or painting has to be broken. Something should be replaced in order to do the other “important thing” that has to be done. And of course that cannot be the job that pays the bills.

You say it’s ok. It doesn’t matter if I don’t do my writing today. After all, this will not be happening everyday. But it does.

And all of a sudden we come to realize that one afternoon that was supposed to be the exception lasted for years. In some cases for too many years.

Another thing is that we all, more or less, feel the need to please other people. I don’t know why. I guess it is human nature. We tend to feel the need to please our boss, our family, our friends and loved ones. But while trying to please them all we forget of all the things that please us.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t say that pleasing others could not also mean that we get pleasure out of it as well. It is much different when you spend time with a loved one, and of course you love the time spent with him/her, than trying to become someone you are not just to fulfill the expectations of parents, friends, lovers etc.

I guess that what I am trying to say is this.

Please do everything you can to always, ALWAYS remember yourself, the things you love and please you. 

P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

The “virtual” world of social media

Yesterday I read a post from another blogger talking about the dark side of twitter. I realized that the virtual world of social media is not as virtual as I thought it was. And of course it isn’t. We have people that make money and build careers through social media. We also have people who commit suicide due to rumors on social media.  Yes, I am aware of all these things. 

Currently, I hold one twitter and one instagram account which both were created for this blog. In the past, I used to hold a facebook account which I deleted six or seven years ago. There was a time that I realized that I was spending too much time just going through the latest posts. Too much time….

And another disturbing thing was that I had friends I no longer wanted to be friends with. There were old schoolmates, even people that I had met once in my life without actually knowing them, their interests, political opinions etc. I kept on blocking and deleting people but some of them kept insisting. I did not want to explain why I did not want to be connected with some of them anymore.

After spending such a long time away from social media I thought that I no longer had the need for them any more. 

But, the thing is that social media could be really helpful in case you want to connect with people whom you share the same interests with.To let other people know more about something you have to offer, from a product to just an idea.

Mostly through twitter. I had the chance to connect with people all around the world who also share the same passion about writing and reading. Everyday I have the chance to review creative projects and also share my posts with them. I know that the posts you see here are not actually creative. Not yet at least…. who knows; this might change…

What I mean to say is that friends and “virtual” friends should exist for a reason. Friends should be compatible in some way, not necessarily alike. Should want, and do, what is possible to support one another. Should inspire one another and share things (feelings, fears, etc).

Friendship should not include intimidation or bullying. As in real life we do not need bullies in social media. 

Digital Nomads – a new reality

This last year we all faced changes that came to our lives and learned lots of new terms. Teleworking that I mentioned in my previous post was something that was used partially from businesses before covid. This last year teleworking, or work from home which is the most casual term, has become “the rule” for every work that can be completed from the safety of our home.

A digital nomad is a person that can fulfil his / her obligations remotely but not necessarily only from one specific location. I became familiar with the term for the first time last May. It had been a while since I had started working from home and decided that I needed a change. 

I was working from home since March 2020 and ever since the day ONE everything was rolling as it was supposed to.There was no need at all to physically contact someone or to visit the company building. Sometime during May 2020 I thought of going away for a week or two and if there was a need I could always return. That was the thought.

The truth is that practically I found no reason at all to return. 

All I needed to get the job done was a good internet connection and a room that I could transform it as my office room. I have to mention that I own a home in the countryside and that is what I took advantage of. Everything was easier there and not crowded at all.

Suddenly, my everyday work routine became much easier. Whenever I felt too stressed or nervous all I had to do was to get outside for a few minutes, take some deep breaths, look around me and feel blessed to be alive. After completing my working hours I would just shut down my laptop and could do anything I wanted to, from climbing the mountain to going for a swim at the sea.

Of course, I have not stayed there ever since. Not that I couldn’t, but there were some personal issues I had to deal with back at the city. So, I kept on doing it with some breaks. It went like this. Three months at the city, Four months away, Two months at the city, Three months away, Two months at the city and still don’t know what I am going to do next.

The thing is that I very much enjoy the fact I can work from anywhere! Yes, at the time I have only used actually two places but the experiment has been done and was completed successfully!

I read somewhere that there are countries that will actually invest in this type of working. Meaning that they will offer benefits to digital nomads that will choose them as their working base. If I remember correctly, I think I have read about places like Maldives, the State of Hawaii, Greece and I guess that there will soon be more to follow. 

I know that this kind of approach to living might not be the choice for everyone. Definitely there are things found in big cities which cannot be found in tropical islands. Theater, cinema, big concerts and fancy restaurants are not easily found away from big cities. Even the most basic things like big hospitals and good schools might be problematic in some cases.

To conclude, I believe that being able to choose the best place to do your job from is a big thing! 

Like everything in this life, what works for me does not mean that works for you also. 

We should, all and always, be able to choose what we want and not what we have to.  

Teleworking, Good or Bad?

As I have already mentioned it has been more than a year that I am working from home. How do i feel about it? Well at the beginning I did not think that it could ever work. My job has a lot to do with human presence and understanding. I work as some kind of consultant so it is important for people to get to know us and trust us. Working from home is faceless and a bit cruel. Face to face meetings had to be replaced with zoom meetings.

Even though it felt really strange at the beginning, since it happened too fast and without actually being prepared for it. To be honest it worked. Finally, we all managed to adjust and projects were completed successfully.

Now whenI think about it, I have to say that I feel like I don’t want to go back to my previous work style. Of course I do miss my colleagues, but that is all I miss! I cannot believe how much time I used to waste daily being stuck in traffic jams and driving hundreds of miles to get to each client.

I feel like I have spent years of my life being on the road and not in a good sense. I would love it if being on the road ment exploring new places, going on holiday and changing everyday routine. I did not like waking up everyday and having to drive for at least an hour to get to the office. 

Working from home may be weird now that everything seems to operate in strange ways but when all these come to an end (and I hope that someday they will) it would definitely be my choice.

Ok, maybe I would like to visit the office some days a month but that would be mainly for socializing reasons and not for actual work.

Science and humanity still struggling

I think it was 13th March 2020 when I started working from home and started meeting only with people that I really had to. For a moment I thought that this could be big, I could even start writing a diary and see what happens. What if it lasted longer than we all expected? What if it turned to something that no one could ever imagine?

No, I gave up on that idea. I wanted to believe that my thoughts were excessive. Nothing like that could ever happen. We live in 2020. Science and humanity would find a solution. They had to.

However, what I realize everyday since that first day is that science and humanity are still struggling. People around the world protest every day. They worry for the changes that will eventually happen in human lives. We all had to accept a fact and were forced to obey new rules. These  new rules seem to be used from governments for much more than slowing down the spread of the virus.

Yes, this virus is a fact and lots of people have lost their lives. We all have to be careful and even if someone thinks that he/ she is not in actual danger, still we all have to be careful for our loved ones. 

Poverty, fear and huge psychological breakdowns will unfortunately result from this world crisis.

Why now?

Why I decided to start writing now seems like a reasonable question.

The answer is that when something really huje is happening in our lives we rarely understand its impact the time it is happening. Even if we realize that what is happening is big we cannot understand how big it is.

It was last March when I went to my job for the last time. I mean being physically present there. I keep working from home ever since. Whoever i was talking to at the time we were all guessing that all these would last for a couple of months….a couple of months and we were talking about it as these two months would really be a long time. 

These two months were too long. And so were all the other months that followed. What has happened during all this time? 

Pandemia. Worldwide lockdowns. Social distancing. Teleworking. Masks. Financial breakdown. Poverty. Human rights violations. Fake news. Vaccines. Police brutality. Most of all, society was prepared and educated for a new world order.

Most residents of this planet are willing to give up so much in order to protect their safety and the safety of their loved ones. I don’ t find this strange or crazy. It is understood and it is expected to happen. Self-preservation instinct is the strongest human instinct.

What i mean to say is that within this last year everything is really weird compared to what it was before. I am afraid to think of what it will be like when all these come to an end. I am afraid to think of who we will be when all these come to an end.

I am not a negative person to end this post like that. No matter what I still believe in people. I believe in love and kindness. We will find a way. We will make it through.

The story before the story begins…

Everything seemed to be like always….small everyday problems or huje ones depending on our health, our financial status, our job status, our love life, etc. However, what i mean to say is that we all had some sort of problems in our lives but we used to have our loved ones near, to support us and to help us get by.

When I first realized what was happening in China, it must have been January of 2020. I did not pay much attention since I believed that I had seen this play before, eg. 2009 with H1N1 virus. Honestly, I found out that most of the people near me had already forgotten of H1N1 when Covid-19 appeared.


I still remember some really hard videos coming from China at that time and I was wondering how on earth could that be possible in 2020. The hardest video I had seen was about a woman that got crazy from the lockdown and the restrictions and soldiers had to build the doors of her house to prevent her from getting outside. Another story was about a member of a family who got crazy thinking that the rest of his family was ill and killed them all to protect himself from the virus.

These videos were cruel and crazy. How on earth were all these possible to happen due to a virus? But then again what Ι was thinking that it was happening in China. These kinds of things would not be possible to happen or to be accepted by the western culture. Citizens of these countries had already given fights to win their rights. Nobody would be willing to accept that kind of behaviour. Nobody would give up on their rights. Or would they?

These were my thoughts at that time. Provided that I did not have enough free time to get constant information about the spreading of the virus, I foolishly thought that it was too far away from me. Something that was happening in a fiction movie or something like that.

Come on now. I know that everyone was thinking like that. Even if the virus knocked on our county’s home it would not be me the one that would get sick. And even if i would get sick there is no chance this thing is as bad as they describe it. They used to say the same about H1N1 and it turned out to be just another flu. Right?