The folks at the Post Office have asked me to say something nice about them for a change. So I’ve found an underreported USPS program that is so good, it’s a slow pitch right over home plate. A gimme.
First, the pre-game warm-up. There have always been people who prey on others. The internet has simply made it easier for the bad guys to grow their business; they can now approach thousands of people simultaneously.
On the other hand, professional standards for bad guys are declining. They don’t have to be skilled liars or actors anymore as everything is transacted at long-distance and anonymously. They don’t even have to be passable spellers! Any doofus can get in the act today. Fagin must be spinning in his grave.
Rules? You gotta be kidding. There are no rules when you deal with these guys. They know that a fool is born every second, (yes, everything is speeding up today), so it’s simply a matter of numbers. When they send out millions of spurious offers they know that some sucker will bite.
Got it? Let the games begin.
Identity theft by cyber thief is the fastest growing crime in the US, which—if you’ve seen the way people drive on the Beltway—amazingly surpasses even road rage.
The methods the bad guys use to extract personal information are myriad and ingenious. Consider my emails from just last week. I won the lottery in 15 countries; well-heeled relatives who have left me vast amounts money are keeling over at an alarming rate; “Reverend Bob” has asked me to print flyers and then ship them to an orphanage in Amsterdam (there are no printers in Europe?); banks and credit cards that I don’t even use have kindly alerted me to serious problems in long-forgotten accounts (more senior moments?); and dozens of exotic Russian hotties lust after me (I wonder if my husband knows!).
I’ve been invited to earn my doctorate on line without having to open a book at least 10 times (learning by osmosis?); and if earning a doctorate isn’t my thing, then photography school (snicker) might be. My credit score is changing on an almost-hourly basis; and a long-lost cousin is stuck overseas and needs me to wire some funds so she can get home again.
The one thing that all these opportunities have in common is I have to give my bank account information to start the transaction. The bad guys are betting on my greed, lust, fear or other baser instinct to trump common sense.
The bad guys are PhDs of the dark side, although occasionally they work the sunny side of the street, too when they depend on my curiosity (my changing credit score) or compassion (my stranded cousin) to elicit my response. It’s just human nature, after all.
But now here’s the game-changer. The USPS and the USPS Postal Inspection Service have stepped up the plate. They, together with federal, state and local government agencies and consumer protection groups, have launched the web site www.deliveringtrust.com.
A nicely packaged site, it is easy for the prey (that’s you and me) to see how the Top 10 scams work. You can watch a video or download the script (a good place for parental “talking points” to begin). And while Kevin Spacey and Meryl Streep won’t fear for their jobs, the actors get the point across. Best yet for a government site, it is occasionally amusing.
A minor quibble: the test, ostensibly for children, is probably over the heads of all but the junior Mensa crowd. It’s still a good place for parents to start talking to the kids, though, and I bet that many parents will learn something from taking it, too.
OK, USPS. You hit a home run with this one.Now please tell me how to stop their barrage of e-mails.