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Internet Scammers and Political Tricksters

The realization that many of us have been ensnared by internet scams sheds light on why so many political leaders manage to evade accountability for disastrous policies rooted in deceptive promises and blatant untruths. Although it is embarrassing, we must own up to our misjudgments to avoid getting tricked again.

LONDON – I am not proud of this, but like many others, I have fallen victim to an online scam. This has never happened to me before, and the experience left me feeling so ashamed that I told very few people about it.

To be sure, I am far from alone in this. Nearly 43 million people in the United Kingdom have encountered suspected internet scams. While not all of them have been duped in the same way I was, millions have been, and often at great cost. Recognizing the prevalence of such scams, the British government recently introduced legislation aimed at mitigating the risks of online fraud. In the United States alone, an estimated one in ten adults falls victim to online scams while more than a million children have their identities stolen annually.

As we get older, many of us become increasingly vulnerable to online fraud due to unfamiliarity with the digital world and our inherent charitable tendencies. In my case, I fell for one of the oldest scams on the internet: I received a message from someone claiming to be the teenage child of one of my friends, saying she had been robbed in Cairo and had no money. She asked for my help to get out of this predicament. Naively, I sent a modest sum using my bank card. Fortunately, when my wife discovered this and pointed out that I had been conned, I promptly updated all the information on my card to prevent any unauthorized use.