Friday, August 4, 2023

New Phone Scam - Fake "Loan Offer" from "NonProfit"

To people desperate to borrow money, a scam call may seem like a lifeline - with an anchor attached!

After many months of few scam and SPAM calls, it seems the scammers are back at work again.  I have received dozens of calls and voicemails lately from a laconic sounding dude who is "reminding" me that their "nonprofit" (the mumble-mumble company) has a $70,000 loan pre-approved for me and I should press "2" to continue.  I haven't been able to connect with any of these scammers as the messages go to voicemail.

The fellow is so nice, he even leaves a "confirmation number."  Be sure to write that down!

Of course it is a  scam and the call is a recording, which tells you it is a scam.

What is interesting is how it has started up recently and then will fade out over time - as all scams do, as they become less and less effective.  The trick of using an "American" voice on the recording is nothing new, either.  A few years back we had the "Ahh, yea, I have a package, ahhh, for you....." recording which was of course a scam - asking for personal information or even a credit card number.

In the case of the "Expedited Loan Company" or whatever, they ask for a "processing fee" up front, and that is the scam, period.  They take this money - a small amount from a large number of people, and it adds up to millions of dollars for them.  There is no loan.  There never was!

But it illustrates how people get into desperate financial straits and think that a "loan" is the answer. "Gee, we're flat broke!  Maybe the answer to all of our problems is to take what little income we have, and turn each dollar into ninety cents - or eighty!  That will solve our problems!"

Loans have to be paid back - with interest.  This seems to confuse a lot of people, particularly college students these days.  Can't the loan just be "forgiven?"   Well, maybe, if it is a government loan and the government spends billions forgiving loans.  But a personal loan to "tide you over?"   It has to be paid back, with interest.

Sadly, a lot of people miss this basic concept.  They go to loan sharks and payday loan companies (I am being redundant) and think that a short-term, high-interest loan will solve their problems, when in fact it throws gasoline on the fire.

But it illustrates why this "loan" phone call is such a perfect scam.  Scammers rely on a return call rate from a number of chumps - prime chumps - and don't want to waste their time with serious people who see through these sort of things.  If the whole thing sounded too legitimate they would get a call from someone seriously seeking a mortgage or line of credit, and they would waste the scammer's time by asking too many hard questions.

But people who believe they can borrow their way out of financial trouble?  Prime chump meat!

So in a way, I admire how the scam was put together - it was designed to go after people who are dumb enough to think a loan is a privilege to get and not some onerous burden that should not be taken on lightly.  It is also designed to get people who are dumb enough to think a loan company is a non-profit enterprise.  Lending money has always been a money-making, for-profit pursuit.

Over time, the calls will taper off, and not because the perpetrators are "caught" but because they will find fewer and fewer chumps.  People get wise over time - slowly - and the scam will lose its effectiveness.  But in the meantime, thousands - perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands - of people will cough up the money (probably in the form of untraceable "gift cards") and be too ashamed and embarrassed to tell their friends it is a con.  Silence and shame are the con-artists' best friends.

You shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed about being human, for the most part.  Yes, you should be embarrassed after sex - if you did it right.  But being weak and falling for a con?  That's on them, not you!

It is a shame, and if you have a conscience and a soul, it should make you angry.  Then again, the people who fall for these cons will literally call you an idiot for not taking all the "free money" and when they get ripped-off, they will get mad at you for "not warning them enough!"  So eventually, you kind of give up on trying to "help" people who are antagonistic.  It is like trying to "help" a Trump supporter who gets upset when Republicans cut off his food stamps, Obamacare, and Social Security.  He never saw it coming!  He thought it was all about trans people or something.

Are these scams profitable?  You bet.  Running a call center in India or Philippines isn't very costly, particularly when the call center employees are on commission. It costs little or nothing to robocall millions of people (we need to fix that - why hasn't it been fixed?).   So if you get one-in-a-million to respond, it could still be thousands of people.  If you collect, say, $500 from each person, in the form of gift card codes, well, that is a half-million for every thousand you scam.  You can collect millions - tens of millions - in no time.  Bear in mind there are over 330 million people in the USA and odds are, you can probably scam at least 1% of them.

Are people really that dumb?  You have seen these "Tick-Tock" videos where people gyrate in a grocery store for imaginary internet points, right?   People are dumber than we think.

Act rationally in an irrational world - that's all you have to do to get ahead.  Just not be "the guy" (or gal) who spends all day on social media or watching reality television or fox news (or any television) or gaming five hours a day or whatever compulsive behavior they try to get us hooked on.  Just stop believing in something-for-nothing and idiotic things like Qanon or Scientology or any other kind of religion.

You'd be surprised how many people are incapable of this!