It was mid-morning. I’d dropped the wife off at work, gotten the kids out of bed and fed, and was just settling in to watch a Star Trek rerun. Then the phone rang.
I normally ignore phone calls when I don’t recognize the number. But this time was different. This time, my gut told me I should answer it. So I did. In doing so, I may have saved myself and my family from a nightmare.
On the other end of the line was a gentleman from the U.S. Department of collections. He informed me, to my shock and horror, that for the past several years I had failed to pay sufficient taxes.
My blood ran cold. I could have sworn that I had filed my taxes every year of my adult life. I even saved all of the paperwork. This couldn’t possibly be right. But, according to the U.S. Department of collections, I was mistaken.
This man went on to inform me that there had been court filings to garnish my wages, seize my assets, and possibly even put me in prison. Not only that, but this was all going to happen in a very short time. Possibly within days.
Fortunately, he had a solution for me. He was in a position to set up payment arrangements so that I could avoid all of these dastardly consequences of my past tax failures. All I had to do today was make my first payment of $250. I just had to start by giving him my debit or a credit card number or even the numbers for a Wal-Mart gift card (apparently the go to place for Uncle Sam when it’s time to get groceries).
“Well, yeah. I would like to avoid prison. But isn’t there a number I can call to confirm this? I don’t want to just shell out $250 over the phone unless I have to,” I said.
“There’s no time,” he said. “These court orders will take effect very quickly and if you want to stop this you need to act now.”
“But shouldn’t I have gotten letters from the IRS about this before now? Besides, I’ve never heard of the U.S. Department of Collections.”
“The IRS doesn’t need to send letters,” he said. “They’ve already gone to court. You need to act now. You don’t want to lose your house, do you?”
“Well, of course not. OK, let’s get this taken care of.”
The above scenario is, obviously, made up. But it didn’t need to be. I’ve gotten these obvious scam phone calls before as have most Americans. While the small details may change from call to call, the broad strokes remain the same.
First, there is a dire prediction of disaster in your immediate future. In a lot of these cases, I find that I’m usually being threatened with law enforcement because of made up past financial misdeeds on my part (such as unpaid taxes). But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes it is claimed that my social security number has fallen into the hands of some miscreants who are misusing it and I will be taking the blame for their bad behavior.
Second, they claim that they, and only they, can help you escape this disaster. No, calling the law enforcement agency or the collection agency or the court with which they’re threatening you isn’t going to do any good. Only they can help you.
Third, in order to get their help, you must surrender some of your money or information to them … right now. They will ask for credit card numbers and debit card numbers. Oddly, they also say that gift cards to large, nationwide stores will do as well. If they haven’t given themselves away by this point, this should be the clincher. If you ask them where you can mail the check to, they will usually say there’s no time for that or find another way to deflect. In other cases, they may ask for your social security number or some other vital piece of information. In effect, this is their attempt to get money from you as well, just not in as straight forward a manner. With this information, they could take out loans in your name or some other such thing.
A fourth element that pops up if I press them is the immediacy of these things. Do you have questions for them? Too bad. There’s no time for questions. There’s no time to confirm what they’re saying. There’s no time to call the court. There’s no time to talk to the IRS. This disaster is only heartbeats away and you must act immediately!
When these four elements are present, I know for sure someone is trying to scam me.
So, why am I bringing this up? Why am I writing about this on a political commentary web site when this would probably be more appropriate in a commercial from law enforcement on how to protect yourself?
The answer is the four elements that I just listed and discussed. The presence of those elements always means a scam, regardless of scale. It can be something as small as your personal finances. Or it can be as big as the end of the planet.
The presence of those elements always means a scam regardless of who’s delivering the message. It can be a guy on the telephone, with a funny accent and a ton of noise in the background. Or, it can be a smooth-talking politician, flashing a perfectly white smile, standing on a stage with ton of American flags in the background.
Some of you may have figured out where I’m going already, but I’m just going to come right out and say it. These four elements of a scam (predictions of disaster, claim that only they can help, surrender of money, and immediacy of the need to act) are all present in something that the left has been beating us over the head with every day for the last two decades. That is climate change.
Now, am I saying the idea of climate change itself is a scam? No. That is a debatable topic that is important to have but not my purpose today.
What I am saying is that the treatment of the topic by our political elites is a scam. I’m writing this now because the immanent inauguration of Joe Biden is about to bring this scam front and center in our lives.
Biden will be a weak President. Now I could go into his apparent mental decline to show this point, but there’s no need to. One only needs to look at his record. For his entire career he has been one to follow the Democratic party line. He hasn’t been an opinion maker or set any agendas or advanced any of his own ideas. He has followed the winds of the party, wherever they may lead.
This will not change simply because he’s sitting in the Oval Office. The powers that be in his party will influence him and right now those powers are far leftists. Those powers are AOC, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. And, of course, his Vice-President, the far-leftist Kamala Harris.
The Democrats that will be influencing him are the ones who have been repeating these four elements louder and more forcefully than anyone else. They are telling us that the world is literally going to end because of climate change. They are telling us that they alone have the plan that can save us (Paris Climate Agreement, Green New Deal). They are telling us that this solution requires us to surrender to them our money and our freedom (their plans always include increasing prices on just about everything and jacking up taxes and surrendering our freedom). If pressed, they tell us that the end is so immanent that we don’t have time to consider any alternatives (remember AOC’s twelve-year prediction?). If pressed, they will repeat the line that 97% of scientists agree with their assessment (an assertion that isn’t true and would be irrelevant if it were). All four elements of the classic telephone scam are present in the climate change discussion.
Most Americans are savvy enough to recognize this over the phone. On the national political stage though, many people tend to give the politicians the benefit of the doubt. They tend to believe that it is a debate over policy and, therefore, legitimate in some way. This is a mistake. Human nature is the same in all places and contexts and there are always some who seek to take advantage of others. There are always some who try to pull one over on others.
So, in the coming weeks and months, as Democrats and liberals get closer to the seat of power, look for these four elements of a scam. Be aware of them and be wary of the fact that their presence in a different setting doesn’t change their meaning or implication. A scam is a scam, even if done on a national level.
You can follow Tom on Twitter (@SearlTom) and on Parler (@SearlTom).
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