‘‘There’s a sucker born every minute.’’
The quote is commonly attributed to American showman Phineas Taylor Barnum, who is best remembered for his entertaining hoaxes and for founding the circus that eventually became Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
But many of Barnum’s contemporaries claimed it actually originated with banker David Hannum, in reference to one of Barnum’s hoaxes.
It’s also a phrase the con men and women preying on our community have apparently taken to heart.
Many of us read reports about people succumbing to scams and think, “That would never happen to me.” And yet it does. The Lufkin Police Department and Angelina County Sheriff’s Office take reports about scams on a regular basis. Far too many of those reports involve East Texans losing money.
We frequently get requests from subscribers asking us to let readers know about the latest scam. We would like to, but we just don’t have the space to list all the different variations of all the different scams currently going around — in real life, on social media or via the telephone.
The Better Business Bureau reports some of the common current scams include:
■ Employment scams. Victims receive offers for high-paying jobs, often with flexible hours and ability to work remotely. They fill out paperwork asking for much of their personal information and are asked to buy “equipment” with what turns out to be a fake check.
■ Online purchase scams. In some cases, a consumer buys a product that never arrives. In other cases, a seller receives fake payment for an item.
■ Fake check scams. The scammer sends a check with an “accidental overpayment” and asks the consumer to wire back the extra money. Weeks later, the bank will discover the check is fake, and the consumer owes the withdrawn funds to the bank.
■ Home improvement scams. Door-to-door solicitors offer quick, cheap repairs, and then either take payments without returning or eventually “find” problems and dramatically raise the price.
■ Advance fee loan scams. A loan is “guaranteed” but comes with upfront charges like taxes and “processing fees.” Once these charges are paid, the loan never appears, and the victim is left with larger debts than before.
But thieves aren’t necessarily just after your money, although they’ll be more than happy to take it. Instead, they’re mining for personal data that they can use to steal from banks or department stores. Identity theft is a much more lucrative business
The BBB says the best weapon consumers have against scammers is education. The more they learn about fraud and being safe consumers, the better the odds are of avoiding scams.
We realize people will continue to fall for scams, but you don’t have to be one of them. A good online resource is texasfightsidtheft.gov, but you can also contact the Texas Office of the Attorney General at texasattorneygeneral.gov and the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.
And one more thing to remember: all scams have one thing in common. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.