Ever heard the early proverb “A fool and his money are soon parted”? Ever wonder where it came from? I thought it came from Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard persona, but it’s actually from a late 16th century rhyme by Thomas Tucker in his ‘Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie’, 1573. The rhyme goes:
A foole and his money,
be soone at debate
which after with sorow,
repents him to late.
Dr. John Bridges gave a more precise wording in his ‘Defence of the Government of the Church of England’ in 1587 which states:
If they pay a penie or two pence more for the reddinesse of them..let them looke to that, a foole and his money is soone parted.
For the longest time parting a fool and his money was done face-to-face. Whether it was at a faire in Medieval Times or a 3 card monte game in Times Square yesterday, it was done face-to-face, but nowadays all it takes is a computer or a phone.
There was a commercial years ago that they air every once in a while showing an older man sitting at his computer reading emails. He shouts to his wife in another part of the house (kitchen most likely) that he just won the Australian Lottery. His wife asks him if he played the Australian Lottery and he says no. She asks him, then how did you win? He removes his reading glasses and says, “I don’t know.” The rule to remember is an old one, if it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t.
That brings us to another popular email scam: the Nigerian Prince. This is your basic money transfer request. You are asked to provide your bank account number so they can place their fortune into your account for safekeeping until they can get out of Nigeria and then collect their funds, and you get a percentage of the money for keeping it safe for them. Of course what happens is they clean out your account and you never see your money again. Believe it or not, the FBI says millions of dollars are lost annually to these scams but, the public is getting smarter about giving out personal information so freely. Plus, service providers now have spam folders where these emails go and can be deleted without any trouble at all. Back in the day an email had to be opened before it could be deleted. Explains the number of viruses computers were susceptible to in those days. But now we have antimalware, antivirus, real time protection, so unless the user is a real brain dead loser it’s harder to get folks to fall for computer scams. But, where the computer leaves off, the phone begins.
Before caller ID was developed, if the phone rang you answered it to find out who it was. Sometimes it was a wrong number but mostly it was someone you knew. Then came the breakup of Ma Bell and everyone with a phone had to pick a long distance carrier. Everybody and his brother was offering long distance phone service. Calls would come in asking if the homeowner was satisfied with their long distance provider and how easy it was to get one if you weren’t. “Just dial 10-10-321 and then the number you’re calling.” Another one was 10 cents a minute (can’t remember the company) and these calls would come in night and day until you wanted to scream. I think these were the first telemarketer calls ever. Anyway, the floodgates were opened and people were getting calls trying to sell them time-share vacations, magazine subscriptions, newspaper subscriptions….annoying, but harmless. Annoying because most of the calls came in during dinner and harmless because no one lost anything except a little time, or their temper at the caller for calling during dinner. But nowadays, holy smoke!
There were so many of these unwanted calls that the FCC started the Do Not Call Registry. Consumers getting these unwanted calls were given a number to call or website to visit to place their phone number on the list of phone numbers to be removed from the telemarketers calling list. 31 days after a number is registered the telemarketing company is forbidden access to that phone number. Well as everyone on the Do Not Call List knows, the DNC registry is a joke.
In the beginning with the caller ID, if you didn’t recognize the number you could check your phone book area code listing to find out where in the country the call came from, but now with the advent of cell phones the first three numbers on the caller ID aren’t necessarily area codes. That’s where Google comes in. Type in the phone number and Google zeros in on all the sites with info on that number. Here you find out who they are, where they are and you can read comments from other people they called about what they are. While no one is calling to ask if we’re happy with our long distance carrier anymore, they do want us to take surveys, donate to children’s cancer, lower our credit card interest rates….annoying but harmless. People are encouraged to complain to the FCC and the FTC about these calls but when you see comments from 2009 to 2014 about specific calls, you know neither the FCC or the FTC gives a flying fig. People are calling upon the different phone carriers to cancel service to known telemarketers but hey, the carriers are making money from these people and aren’t about to shut them down. But the new scams….the new scams are scary and many senior citizens are falling for them and losing money they can ill afford to lose.
The telephone rings. It’s someone telling you a relative has been kidnapped and needs ransom money. The telephone rings. It’s the IRS telling you you owe umpteen dollars that must be paid today or you’ll face arrest and jail time. The telephone rings. Someone says a relative has been arrested in a foreign country and needs bail money. The telephone rings. It’s the utility company demanding payment on the spot or your power will be cut off. All the above scenarios are the latest scams targeting seniors. Now I don’t want to say seniors are way too gullible or not too savvy about the way things are nowadays, after all, I’m one of them. But police have been warning seniors about these scams and instructing them to call police if they get any of these calls and not to give out any personal information to these callers. One other thing both the police and the phone companies have encouraged people to do is if you don’t recognize the number on your caller ID, don’t answer the phone. As I’ve told my husband, just because the phone rings it doesn’t mean it has to be answered, but some of these folks are very persistent and the phone rings to a double-digit count until the ringer is shut off.
So what’s the answer? The Do Not Call List isn’t working, the FCC and FTC don’t seem to be able to do anything and Verizon, AT&T and the other providers don’t want to do anything that will have an effect on the bottom line. I guess it’s up to we individuals so the next time you get one of the calls, do what this guy does. Thanks for reading Musings From the Bench 9/29 Edition. Until next time.
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