Most scams have nothing to do with Tech

I am not just a Mac computer expert. I study scams and disinformation. I’m that guy who goes through his spam folder just to find new scams, reading them line per line just to get a better understanding on how they work.

Most of the scams that I’m seeing lately have very little to do with technology. In fact, the most common “The Nigerian Prince Scam” started as the “Spanish prisoner” in the 1500s.

The modern version of the NPS scam started in the early 1900s when a 14-year-old American boy put out an ad for pen pals claiming to be a Nigerian prince. He asked for 4 dollars and a pair of old pants in exchange for gems and ivory. (Never convicted as he was considered too young)

The best computer on the planet with cutting edge software and anti-virus are just as susceptible to con artists as that old computer that can barely load Facebook. …. the person behind the keyboard is the greatest weekeness.

If tech is not the problem why are seniors targeted?

The reason that scammers target seniors has more to do with psychology than it does with technology. Seniors are notoriously nervous with anything with a keyboard. I have a few of my students reach panic levels of stress while learning how to edit videos. (Part of my training is to get them past that and relax while learning new software. It’s not the age it’s the attitude )

Strong emotions are what the scammer is after. When we are stressed we are not thinking clearly. The same goes for Hate, Love and Anger. We don’t notice the little things that might be wrong. We also reach out for any possible solution for the problem … even if that is the scammer. And that is what the scammer is counting on.

Tips to avoid online scams

Because scams have little to do with computers (Other than that is what the scammers are using) There are some techniques to help protect yourself from a scam.

Never give anyone remote access to your computer

Not even me! ( I prefer to work in person anyways.) If anyone asks to gain access to your computer for support reasons this should be a big RED FLAG. I do not care if it is Telstra, the ATO, Amazon or Apple support. never give access to your computer over the phone.

If you are scared, angry or frustrated hang up or walk away from the email .

Remember the key to the scam is to get you feeling strong emotions early in the phone call or email. They may say the following phrases. If you think that the call or email is real. you can always check in with the real organisation later.

  • “You will be arrested for _______”
  • “You have been infected by a computer virus”
  • “We have noticed fraudulant charges on your account”
  • “You have been charged $500”
  • “We have put a virus on your computer and can see your browser history”

Scammers do not always have overseas accents

Though it’s common to have scammers call from India, Pakistan, China, the Philipines and USA. (This does not help me when I worked phone support… my accent caused all kinds of trouble) Con artists can be local as well. Do not assume because there is an Australian on the other end of the phone it’s real.


I have been a call centre manager for years. Anyone working in a real call centre will do everything they can to avoid sounding rude as it’s one of the few reasons to be instantly fired! Even a bad phone agent will ever yell at a customer ONCE!

Scammers do not have this problem. They even use being rude to make you angry or scared!

Even if it is a real phone call hang up as the agent should not treat you poorly.

Think twice about calls to your land line.

People who use landlines tend to not like using smartphones and are not tech savvy. Smartphones also have the ability to record conversations and use caller ID. Even though we have a landline in our hour the only people who call are scammers.

When in doubt hang up!

Do not worry about being rude. Call centre folks get yelled at every day! Hanging up only happens 10 times a day. Trust me they will forget about it. But if you have concerns hanging up and calling the real organisation is always a good idea. (Better yet walk into the bank, etc)

If you are a victim of a scam!

  • Contact the police
  • Walk into your bank and tell them what happend
  • Change all your passwords
  • Get your computer checked out for malware and backdoors.
  • Don’t feel bad scammers have had 200 years to perfect their craft.

More from MacMason