November 24

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Scam Alert

FAMILY UPDATE!

We have a big Thanksgiving dinner planned at my place (I'm writing this on Wednesday.) We'll probably end up with 25 people or so. How many turkeys should we get? At least two big ones. We'll cook one in the oven and one in a deep fryer.

I have endless things to be thankful for. My wife, my kids, my faith, my parents, my wife's large family, my health, doing purposeful work that I love, my puppy, my orchids, pickleball, and just the fact that I live in Florida (to name a few). After living in Pittsburgh for 36 years, I still appreciate every day without a cold, cloudy drizzle.

Above, you see glow-in-the-dark pickleball. My kids didn't care for it. It made them dizzy.


The other day, I had a shocking conversation with some clients. Here are the details:

One day, they got a call from their grandson, Dan, who lives in New York City. Dan was a simple guy who stayed to himself most of the time. Because of this, his message was all the more shocking.

"Grandma, I’ve been arrested. They are taking me to jail. I need your help," Dan said.

"What?!" Grandma exclaimed. "What do you need? How can I help you?!"

"If I don’t get bail money, I’m going to jail," Dan replied. Dan handed the phone over to a lawyer.

"Mam," he said, "we need to get this money in the next couple of hours, or he’s going to be in jail for a while."

"What do you need?!" Grandma exclaimed.

The lawyer continued, "I need you to go to your bank and withdraw $18,000 in cash. If the cashier asks why you are taking out so much money, just tell her you are buying a used car."

Grandma and Grandpa raced to the bank. They couldn’t imagine what their grandson could possibly have done. But he was on the other end of the phone, pleading for help.

The lawyer asked them to call him back once they got the money. On their way home, with the cash in hand, Grandpa decided to call Dan. "Don’t do that!" Grandma warned. "The lawyer says we shouldn’t call him."

But Grandpa called Dan’s cell phone anyway. Dan picked up on the second ring.

"Dan, is everything ok? What is going on?" said Grandpa.

Dan seemed confused, "What are you talking about?"

"Where are you?" Grandpa asked.

"I’m at home," he replied, "what is going on?"

Suddenly, everything became clear. That wasn’t their grandson on the phone. It was his voice stolen and recreated using artificial intelligence.

They were so easily fooled because it really was Dan’s voice on the phone. There was no way to tell otherwise. This is scary stuff.

In hindsight, the clues were obvious. The cash, the secrecy, lying to the bank. None of it really made sense, but how could you ignore your grandson’s voice? And the very serious-sounding man, acting as a lawyer, was very persuasive.

This kind of stuff is going to become more and more common. As technology advances, the scams will become even more nefarious. You might even see a loved one on video chat that is artificially created. At some point, robots will be indistinguishable from humans. This sounds like a science fiction movie.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Often, scammers rush their victims and push lots of emotional hot buttons to get them to stop thinking rationally. Never let strangers force you into fast decisions. Pause, calm yourself, and think clearly and critically. Chances are you'll quickly see the situation for what it is.

I’ve seen online scams increase as well. If you get an email that your warranty is expired for Windows, or that your computer has a virus, or your bank needs vital information, be very cautious. By calling the phone number provided, you often talk to a scammer posing as a customer service representative.

Right now, many fake emails are floating around that say they are coming from "Docusign," which is an online way of approving purchases. The email looks identical to a legitimate one.

Look at the sender's email address if you get a suspicious email. They usually look strange if it is a scam. It might look like: reza.clalucyadkdia6@gmail.com.

Don’t open suspicious emails, especially those with an attachment. Make sure you have up-to-date virus protection. I think the best is MalwareBytes. They even have a free version. https://www.malwarebytes.com/.

I can’t emphasize this enough. By simply installing this software, you will be protected by 99% of the stuff out there. If you’re unsure if you have up-to-date coverage, download Malwarebytes just to be safe. It takes five minutes and could save you time, money, and trouble.

Then again, maybe this entire article was written by Artificial Intelligence. Maybe this newsletter is, in and of itself, a scam. The world is a crazy place.

Be Blessed,

Dave

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