Everybody Plays the Fool (Sometimes)

Did you ever have one of those moments where you said to yourself, “what was I thinking?”  Thankfully, I hadn’t said that for a very long time, until this morning.  With millions of people all over the world getting scammed on the internet, I thought I was smarter than many regarding fraud.  Today I almost took the bait; hook, line and sinker.

 I was checking my email when I noticed someone I “like” on Facebook submitted a friend request to me.  Wow, I thought that was pretty cool since this person probably has many “followers” and asked me to be their friend.  So, innocently enough, I logged on to my Facebook account and saw their request and clicked the box that would allow us to be “friends.”  Within a couple of minutes, a chat box came up – oh, this person is online and wants to say hi!  The first couple of sentences were friendly enough albeit generic.  The third got me thinking.  The person asked for my cellphone number.

 Okay, I don’t consider myself a stupid or gullible person but guess what, I fell for the line.  I put down a random number saying I didn’t feel comfortable offering it and wanted to know why they asked.  What I should have done was ask first before typing a number but it didn’t matter.  They told me a sob story about a person in another country who needed my help and they requested money.  That was it.  I wanted to put my fist through the computer.  I immediately reported the chat, “de-friended” the person and reported the site, in detail, to Facebook as a scam.

 What was I thinking?  I “liked” this person because I read their book several years ago and it left an indelible impression on me.  They were spiritual and I admired them.   It didn’t dawn on me to question why they would want me to be their friend when they have thousands of followers.  Dumb ass, I said to myself.  I sent a direct message to the official person/site advising them of the scam.  Hopefully, someone read it and investigated further.  The sad part was there were status reports listed on the fraudulent site from people who seemed to actually believe this person was authentic.  

 I had already been a victim of identity theft a couple of years ago.  Someone had filed a fraudulent claim with the IRS and requested a refund in the amount of several thousand dollars.  We were finally expecting a refund that particular year and when we didn’t receive it within a reasonable amount of time, we contacted the IRS.  They kept giving us excuses and finally, after four months and requesting several notarized documents from us, we were told someone had filed a fraudulent claim online before our tax returns were submitted by our accountant.  We contacted our Congressman and someone in his office processed our case.  We soon discovered filing of fraudulent claims has become an enormous problem in our country, costing taxpayers billions in lost revenue.  Please read this article:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/48462508/Tax_Scam_IRS_Pays_Out_Billions_in_Fraudulent_Refunds

 In our case, there was nothing we did to encourage the fraud.  The IRS would not tell us anything about the individuals(s) who filed the fraudulent return nor would they advise us if the thieves were ever apprehended.  The IRS did however, mail out a check to the schemers in excess of $3K; billions have been paid out in error.  No wonder why our country is in economic trouble.

 After beating myself up over falling for the scam this morning, I was grateful it didn’t go further.  Hopefully either Facebook or the original person I “liked” will have checked into the matter and resolved it one way or another.  Needless to say, I’ll be more careful in the future.  Funny thing though, when I first started posting blogs I saw a few comments that I thought were a little odd.  They turned out to be scammers too!  Who would have thought people would be phishing on a blog?

 I just hope this situation won’t discourage me from engaging in online conversations in the future.  I’d hate to think I’m becoming too cynical; I’d rather think I’m just cautious.  Unfortunately, after my earlier episode, I think I might want to reconsider my security options on all my social media sites, just to be on the safe side.  You know the old saying, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…”

 “It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” ~ Noel Coward

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