Ben's Book of the Month: Review of "Scam Me If You Can: Simple Strategies to Outsmart Today's Rip-off Artists"

Posted on by Ben Rothke

King Solomon observed 3,000 years ago that "there is nothing new under the sun." In Scam Me If You Can: Simple Strategies to Outsmart Today's Rip-off Artists, (Portfolio Books 978-0525538967) former con man Frank Abagnale does not offer that much that is radically new. But this is a critical book nonetheless, in that it contains a significant amount of advice in one place that must be considered, so one doesn't get scammed.

The booked is co-published by AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) and is a title that should be read by anyone who is a grandparent or of the equivalent age. This is because many of the scams detailed are focused mainly on the elderly, who are often more trusting and less suspicious. Those two traits make them especially vulnerable to scammers. Truth be told, the book is valuable for those of any age.

The book is part of AARP's efforts to educate and arm readers of every age about as many scam techniques and prevention strategies as possible. To that, Abagnale details several classic scams that have been redone for the age of the Internet. 

Abagnale writes that every scam has a few red flags: that the scammer will ask for your personal information, a bank account number or to send them money. Once they start asking for that, the potential victim must stop, or be prepared to be an actual victim. 

It's strangers who reach out to people to scam them. An important point the book makes is that you don't owe anything to a stranger. That includes information, consent or anything else. These scammers attempt to use authority to make the recipient feel like they owe them something.

Those who take this advice alone can save themselves significant heartache.

Abagnale provides sound advice on dealing with robocalls. This is important given that the National Do Not Call Registry is useless against scammers. The telco providers have no incentive to stop these calls, as they make money off these hundreds of billions of calls. That makes the advice in the book even more compelling. 

For those who have heard him speak, Abagnale is a great storyteller. He shows that he can also tell a good story in the printed word. The book is filled with practical advice and actionable guidance. This is not a technical book but is an easy to read guide meant for the average user who struggles to deal with the myriad security and privacy issues involved with merely turning on their computer and answering the phone. Neither of these is a trivial issue anymore. 

Abagnale echoes the observation of King Solomon in that things have not changed that much. It's just that these scams have gotten much easier since technology breeds crime. 

In the book, Abagnale recounts the stories of countless victims. By reading Scam Me If You Can, you can ensure you only have to read about scam victims, and not be one. 

Ben Rothke

Senior Information Security Manager, Tapad

hackers & threats

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