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Opinion: In 2020s, resolve to stop scammers

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Theoretically, scammers could not exist if no one fell for their schemes.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but it could be as simple as supply and demand. If people – the commodity – stop being victims, there can be no demand for scammers. That’s a very simple explanation of the microeconomic concept.

Of course, in the real world, it’s not that simple.

Sham businesses very much continue to exist, and to ensure their survival, they’re evolving constantly and coming up with new schemes to target potential victims.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office recently released its annual list of the Top 10 consumer complaints, nearly all of which involve a scam.

No-call complaints often are carried out by scammers and are No. 1 on the list by a large margin. Schmitt’s office received nearly 44,000 no-call complaints in 2019, representing consumers who took action to let the attorney general know about violations of the state’s no-call law and illegal telemarketing practices. That compares with 2,171 complaints for the No. 2 category of solicitations, publications and subscriptions.

Illegal telemarketing calls are the bane of my existence. The most irritating is when national or international companies engage in an unlawful practice known as caller ID spoofing, in which the phone call appears to be coming from someone with a 417 area code. It’s much less conspicuous than an 800 number, and getting people on the phone in the first place is one of the greatest barriers to entry for scammers.

Email and phone scams have harmed my loved ones and colleagues, and these schemes benefit no one except the people of very questionable integrity that run them.

My proposal? With the onset of a new decade, let’s all resolve to put a stop to the scamming industry. It’s a group effort, but it’s one well worth the undertaking. I know, it’s easier said than done.

It starts with constant vigilance. Educate yourself daily about new threats. Scammers are examining trends to catch new victims, so why shouldn’t you? Stay ahead of them and keep yourself safe.

Use technology to your benefit by researching companies that purport to be someone they aren’t. For instance, this month, City Utilities customers have complained about scam calls asking them to call an 800 number or their utilities will be disconnected. According to a CU Facebook post, the utility does public-facing business through a single phone number – and it’s not an 800 number. I have a relative who fell for a similar type of call, and it could have been avoided by hanging up the phone, taking a minute to breathe and doing the proper research.

And finally, as stewards of the next generation of would-be victims, teach these ideals to your children.

We can end scamming in the 2020s. Who’s with me?

Springfield Business Journal Web Editor Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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