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April Fools – Have You Been Fooled?

It’s that time of year again when merry pranksters develop their little quips and schemes to trick family and friends just to zing them with that familiar gotcha phrase; APRIL FOOLS!

However, more and more in our changing society, being one who falls prey to being fooled, has taken on a whole new meaning and dynamic. At least far more impactful, and risky, than the often-innocent Aprils Fools jokes.

Today’s all too often foolers come via what was once the most innocent and harmless vehicles; The US Mail, a simple phone call, and simple question or item for sale on social media. Luckily many of us have gotten wise to the new fooling tactics but unfortunately many have not. Thus, far too many people have been fooled to the tune of millions of dollars, lost life savings, and even life-threatening circumstances.

One of the most common fooling tactics is now employed by social media sites. It has become quite common to see the following questions and comments, all intended to collect your personal information in an effort to possibly steel from you and/or take your identity:

  • April is an awesome month, share if you were born in April

  • I have a friend whose maiden name is Charity – what was your maiden name?

  • My first car was a classic 1969 Camaro – what was your first car?

  • What was your biggest on-line purchase mistake?

  • Cheers was a great television show, what was your favorite?

Yes, it’s fun to play along and see what everyone else has stated, and you can often find new friends, and renew old acquaintances this way, but hidden in the fun, is the intent to collect your personal data and information. Because once you answer, you have likely given EVERYONE the potential answers to your password security questions. I hope you realize this, but many do not. So, Have you been fooled?

Another social media trick is some of the merchandise that is sold. They offer some really cool looking or working gadget, and they keep it in your face every time you look at it. Eventually you decide to buy it…you go to their website, create an account by providing all your personal information, and abra-cadabra, you’ve made the purchase. Then you find out that the business turns out to be a shell company whose only purpose is to collect identity information so to try to hack your computer, phone, or steel your identity. Sure, you purchased that cool thing you wanted, but what did it, or will it, really cost you in the end? So, Have you been fooled?

Phone calls have escalated, and developed, this fooling activity to a science. How’s your car warranty…do you have the right insurance plan…your nephew is in jail…are your property taxes up-to-date…we’re calling about that contest you entered…and my favorite for anyone turning about 60 yrs. old or older, we’re calling about your Medicare plan and choices.

The fact is that virtually all of these calls have the same intent as the social media questions; collect your personal information. In some cases, there is no intended harm here but there certainly is a huge risk, as stated above, because what are they going to do with your information. So, Have you been fooled?

Finally, personal letters sent to lure you in. These letters come with contents that look like cashiers’ checks, credit cards, and other teasing content trying to grab your attention. Envelopes also get stamped with “Urgent Response Required,” or “Time Sensitive,” or “Signature Requested.” The reality is even though postal service mail is clearly declining, any letter that lands with a person signing up for whatever services, again helps capture personal information. So, have you been fooled?

With the internet and all the various phone apps and technology that exists, collecting data is so very easy for experienced bad actors to collect. Should we really be helping them out by voluntarily sharing even more of our information, via the above mentioned methods?

Today’s challenge is that we are always under attack for our information because it means free advantages and money to those bad actors. Most of us have seen this, understand this, and don’t play the game. But some don’t realize the hidden impact and/or attacks that are occurring, because they seem so innocent and often times fun. But what about the senior citizen who does not know or understand. Or the widowed person whose spouse, who did all the family business and/or finances, is now gone and the survivor knows nothing about what, or how, to do these things. Finally, the uninformed, computer or internet unfamiliar, or those otherwise impacted by various health or personal challenges, who are not as savvy as those who have been tested and experienced the challenges of bad actors in our lives. These folks are all often the victims and are clearly the targets.

You see, the bad actors trying to attack and do harm, are hoping to find just one target to help them. They know must of us won’t participate. They know most of us have seen or heard of the numerous horror stories where people have lost thousands of dollars or spent years repairing their stolen identities. But they’re not targeting those of us who know, they are targeting all of the others…HOPING…that only one person at a time helps them out. The bad actors are hoping for a 90-95% failure rate. Because that means that out of all those calls, mailings, and social media posts, that 5-10% of the people they connected with, helped them collect personal information to eventually abscond, who knows what, from these people. Forever impacting and changing these victims’ lives, for many years and in some cases, forever.

So, Have you been fooled? Be cautious with your information. Research those businesses your considering, know where your information is going and what’s going to be done with it, don’t share information via phone. Share this information with those who may not know of these tricks.

If you feel the contacts, the web sites, the phone calls, and the letters, are of value, take down their information, do the research, and if it still feels safe, then proceed with caution. As you choose to proceed, if you see or experience anything that makes you uncomfortable, walk away. Nothing is more important than your personal information and identify – you work hard and risking all you’ve worked for is not worth a quick want or fun thing to do.

As I close, I am reminded of some key, and very applicable, words from God. Matthew reminds us in Matthew 7:15 (NIV) “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

For April Fools, 2022, my trick for you is to not be fooled. Don’t let the wolf get you, no matter how beautiful or interesting the sheep appears to be!!!

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