Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Supposing I Gamble...

I've been doing some reading on Reddit recently and discovered r/Scams. It's an interesting forum, mainly populated, it seems, with people pointing out attempts (sometimes successful, usually not) to scam them or asking if some or another message or the like is a scam attempt.

There are, unsurprisingly, a wide array of different scams out there, making the rounds of the internet. While the ever-popular 419 scam is still alive and well, and run-of-the-mill phishing scams are common, human cleverness in seeking to defraud their fellow man is eternal, and this poses a problem for even the wary internet denizen. I am, I will admit, something of the suspicious sort. If something strikes me as being off about something, I simply delete or report it, and go about my business. But I realize, especially now that I've been exposed to some of the stories that r/Scams has to offer, that my willingness to always simply walk away is something of a luxury. In many cases, what the scammers are preying on is the poverty of their marks. For someone in need of a better paying job, an offer of an executive assistant role may seem like a stroke of good fortune. For someone low on funds, finding a virtual reality setup or a smartwatch at a significant markdown from MSRP appears to be a simple matter of finding a fortuitous sale.

But, having the sneaking suspicion that something isn't right, they turn to Reddit, and ask: "Am I being scammed?" Often, it's because they don't know how the scam would work. And if they can't understand how they would be cheated, they're more likely to hold out hope that they've stumbled onto something good. Triangulation scams, which I'd never heard of before, work on this model. A criminal offers an item for sale at a good price. When someone offers to purchase the item, the criminal buys it from an online vendor, using compromised credit card credentials, and stipulates the purchaser as the recipient. The purchaser receives the item they paid for, and it's not unless or until someone flags the payment to the vendor as fraudulent that anyone is any the wiser.

But the most interesting aspect of the "Am I being scammed?" posts is the number of them where it's fairly clear that they're hoping (against hope, as it turns out) that the community will tell them that whatever they've come across is, in this one case, legitimate. The number of posts that ask, at some point, "Should I risk it?" is somewhat surprising. To me, anyway. As I noted before, I'm not in a position where something that seems sketchy turning out to be on the level would be a significant benefit to me. It leaves me with the feeling that I should be doing more to ensure that more people can be in that position with me.

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