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Teach others to avoid scams

Most of us don’t even pause when see a headline like “Woman reports losing $7,000 in phone scam,” and that’s too bad.

Oh, we may be curious enough to read about the incident — this one was the first item in Tuesday’s Blotter — but we quickly move on to other topics and probably never give the victim a second thought.

After all, it’s not our fault that the person in the report fell for the scam. We don’t even know the woman.

Or do we?

Think about it. Odds are good that there is such a person in your neighborhood, church, club — maybe even in your own family. Scams like this one would have dried up long ago if people didn’t continue to fall for them.

Ever ask yourself why people buy into these schemes?

It would be impossible to list all the possible “hooks” that a con artist can bait to land a victim, but if you check on the Texas attorney general’s website, you’ll find some of the most common.For example, the con man may promise you something for nothing, or he may come across as the most likeable guy in the world — someone so nice could never take advantage of you, right?

What if he says he can make you rich? Who hasn’t dreamed of hitting the jackpot? And then, when he says that you have a limited time to grab the prize, you may think that your dream is about to slip away, just when it was within your grasp.

To dispel any final doubts, the con artist may even offer proof — testimonials from others who took a chance and cashed in big.

Such scammers can break down your defenses, win your trust and — this is the most certain thing of all —take your money.

You may think it can’t happen to you, and maybe it won’t, but what about your elderly aunt, your grandfather or that kindly neighbor who is a soft touch for someone with a sad story? It could happen to one of them.

When you stop and think about it, we should all be concerned about stories like the one reported in Tuesday’s edition. Each of us should take such stories personally and vow to stop scammers from finding any more victims.

By taking the initiative — teaching those who are vulnerable how to protect themselves and making regular checks on all the trusting people we know — we can make a difference. Help others recognize the danger signs:

•  Con artists contact you, so you only know what they tell you, not who they really are;

•  Con artists typically offer you money or a prize;

•  Con artists want personal information such as your bank account number, Social Security number or other sensitive information;

•  Con artists say you have to pay them to claim whatever prize you’ve supposedly won or to get the easy job making big money they’re promising; and

•  Con artists tell you to wire money or use some other method other than mailing it.

Teach everyone you care about to beware of unsolicited contact (by any method) from people they don’t know. Tell them to consult someone they trust about any suspicious activity and to never provide personal information to a stranger.

There is no shame in falling victim to a con artist — it really can happen to anyone.

But we should all be ashamed if we stand idly by and fail to warn those who are at risk.