A resolution for 2022: build good habits

The pandemic, once thought to be nearing control this past summer, continues to make us stand six feet apart in grocery checkout lines and wear masks and other PPE (personal protective equipment).

It has also underscored the many benefits provided by the digital world. Online grocery shopping affords you to be "physically" distant from crowds by ordering online and picking up your groceries curbside. Frequent use of video chat apps like Duo and FaceTime, or attending Zoom events, stimulates our sense of "seeing" and combined with "hearing" can help isolation and loneliness from setting in. In this case, loneliness is the unwanted side effect of continued physical distancing from family and friends during the pandemic.

Unfortunately the nefarious have also zeroed in on humanity's increasing reliance on the digital world's benefits and have increased their "phishing" campaigns to lure potential victims to take their bait. Not only has the flow of phishing emails, texts, and phone calls increased exponentially but their trappings have become sophisticated too.

Success of the con set forth by the scammers – regardless of whether it is delivered through email, text, or a phone call – depends on the recipient's emotional response based on sense-of-urgency, empathy, fear, or embarrassment.

When we had our Discover Digital Literacy! program's annual alumni reunion and holiday gathering event this month, we handed out a small laminated card as a keepsake. I made the following important inscription before laminating: "Minimize becoming a victim by practicing good habits. (1) Don't get phished: ignore unsolicited emails, texts, or phone calls; (2) Verify the sender's email address; (3) Beware of common scam tactics."

If you "condition" yourself, i.e. make it a habit, to delete unsolicited emails or unsolicited text messages, and if you always let the answering machine pick up the calls so you can screen it first to ascertain if it is someone you "want" to talk to, you don't give the scammer a chance to take you to the cleaners.

Gone are the days where they wanted you to claim a multi-million dollar estate, a storyline easy to spot as a scam. Many scams look so real that even if it is an unsolicited message, you still may be inclined to open it (or listen to it) because the message touches one of your emotions profoundly.

If you had to open or listen to an unsolicited message, the first thing to do is to verify the sender's address. For example, if online shopping giants Amazon or Kohl's would send you an online order confirmation email, it would come from an email address ending in @amazon.com or @kohls.com.

So if you get a Kohl's order confirmation email, when you haven't ordered anything that you can remember, saying "Thank you for your recent order of $499. Please click on the link below or call us at 123-456-7890 to check your order status" from an email address that does not end in @kohls.com but rather @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, or other free email services, you know it is a phishing attempt and the right thing to do is delete it.

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation

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Volume 13, Issue 24, Posted 9:47 AM, 12.21.2021