I am constantly astounded at the level of sophistication reached by modern day swindlers. If ordinary folks fail to be sufficiently cautious, even paranoid, many will be subject to identity theft, or otherwise being ripped off by a con “artist.” Part of the problem: internet giants mishandle our vital information. 

People could potentially become jailed or homeless due to the cunning and ruthless actions of modern day criminals. Trying to get identity theft resolved after it takes place is without a doubt a huge mess and is enough to send many people over the edge. 

We ought to take a look at predatory loan and credit offers. What they do seems to be “legal,” even though they don’t actually offer credit or a loan. Instead, the unwary consumer agrees to pay fees that are much higher than the supposed credit limit. These are lesser-known “credit” companies that often imitate logos from legitimate banks. You can find out this information before accepting the card by reading the mandatory “disclosure” pamphlet included in the credit card offer. 

The results of accepting one of these nominally legal phony credit cards can amount to disaster. 

When someone’s credit rating has bad marks, regardless of whether this is caused by scammers rather than by one’s own actions, everything is affected, especially one’s housing situation. If you have a bad credit record, you can’t rent. 

Criminal scams target people based on perceived vulnerability. The playing field is not level. 

When someone approaches me, including when it seems to be for a valid purpose, I am compelled to verify them. This could include a Google search, it could include calling back the individual, or it could involve checking references. 

When subject to an internet scam, we no longer have a way of discerning whether or not something is legitimate, except by doing our homework. In the past, scammers could often be spotted by poor English, or by shoddy graphics on the internet. No more. The quality of graphics and language of the scams have risen. 

Sometimes, we are swindled by legitimate agencies. This is where agencies get a mental health consumer to sign for permissions that we don’t fully understand. They often would like to have free reign in what they do with our information. They also would like to be able to provide “treatment” with no policing or scrutiny. It is convenient for agencies to gain as much power and control as they can over mental health consumers. 

Part of the role of mental health agencies is to have power over mental health consumers to prevent us from becoming an inconvenience. If they can obtain legal and physical controls, this is pleasing to authorities so that they do not have to worry about someone doing something that seems out of control or chaotic. The architects of society would rather have as much orderliness as they can obtain. There isn’t enough power in the hands of consumers to provide adequate checks and balances on the power of the system. 

People with disabilities are in a morass in modern society. Most of us are low income, and this alone puts us at a massive disadvantage. Society has mechanisms that amount to us being penned in, not always by physical fences, but often by a set of rules and practices that make it very, very hard for us to create good lives for ourselves. 

And, on top of that, criminal scams and quasi-legal predatory companies target people based on perceived vulnerability. The playing field is not level. 

However, if we go too far into paranoia, this is yet another way of us never being able to improve our life conditions. We have to trust some people some of the time. If we fail to trust anyone, we get no cooperation, and this leads to our demise. 

Jack Bragen is author of Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia: A Self-Help Manual. Additionally, he has three collections of short fiction/science fiction for sale, and lives in Martinez.