Avoiding con artistry

| Scene Reporter

Have you ever been swindled into giving out your social security number or credit/debit card number? Most of you may be thinking “obviously not.” However, con artistry is an all-too-common crime in our society and is more prevalent than you might think.

As college students living within the comfortable means of a world dominated by studious and intelligent 18-23 year olds, it can be easy to forget that not everyone exists to be our friend or study buddy. Trust is an admirable trait that can open up our hearts and bring us closer to others, but it is also a characteristic that can get us in trouble if we aren’t careful.

Credit scares can happen to anyone, as freshman Tracey Rubinoff knows. Rubinoff’s cousin gave out her social security number on eBay in order to pay for her purchase. The next day, she realized that there were “all these expenses on her credit card [that had been spent] in different states. You never give out your social security number, no matter what,” Rubinoff said.

While this may seem obvious, online scams can be very deceiving.

“I get those e-mails that say you have to write a check for a certain amount of money,” senior Jordy Whisler said. When the e-mail offers a desirable product, it can be difficult to resist and hard to believe that the “product” is nothing more than words on a page.

Freshman Jackie Stern ran into this same problem, except in her case, the deceiving words came from a live person. By confronting people directly, con artists can employ emotion, facial expressions and persistence in order to get what they want.

A man rang Stern’s doorbell and told her a sob story about how he was homeless and aspired to become a preacher. He was selling magazine subscriptions to get himself started, or so he said. Stern felt sorry for him and also wanted a subscription to Vogue magazine, so she conversed with him for a few minutes and then went upstairs to get her checkbook.

It was a personal check, which should have been the first warning sign, but she was understandably too wrapped up in the moment to realize this. The man also had a legitimate-looking pamphlet with the business organization’s Web site written on it.

After the man left, Stern checked out the website. It was real, but none of the links were functional. She attributed this to a fluke and waited months for her magazines to arrive. However, they never came. “I want my $90 back,” she declared.

Unfortunately, Stern will never see that money; the most she can do is avoid making this mistake in the future.

According to the Jacksonville (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office Web site (www.coj.net), there are a few precautions that one can take in order to ensure that con artists do not take advantage of naiveté.

Tip #1 reads, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Some other suggestions include “Never give your credit card number to a phone solicitor,” “Never send money as part of a chain letter,” and “Don’t trust strangers who offer instant cash.”

These rules may seem like common sense, but many who have experienced scams thought the same thing…until it happened to them. Just remember to be smart, be careful and keep your private information how it should be: private.

To read about Rachel’s own recent identity theft scare, check out “Sex and the Loop: Parts 1, 2 and 3.”