by Geoffrey Churchman

While I’ve been critical of his documentaries in the past, this cursory look at some of the scurrilous denizens of cyberspace screened last night on TV3 is a useful one.

Most people these days use the interweb at least a few times a week, and anyone who reads us is in that category.

What has become a huge problem over the past 15 years is the number of people addicted to their smartphones and Patrick Gower admits in the program that he spends an amazing 8 hours a day gawking at his portable little screen. He didn’t realise that the big digital gangsters, Google and Facebook particularly, harvest all the data about every location he goes and what he likes looking at, and then sell that data to commercial users, including some very shady ones — and how much gets sold to Jacinda’s spy agencies?

Social media has attracted, among other things, romance scammers who steal someone’s identity and then pretend to be looking for love, when in reality all they are hunting is people to send them money with sob stories. I’ve had a few that I’ve played along with, wondering when such a request will come. Although Nigeria is still Scammer Central, other hotspots are Eastern Europe, particularly Russia (one victim even wrote to Putin who promised to do something about it) and the Caribbean.

Why do people fall for these scams? Pretty much the same reason people fall for Jacinda government propaganda; it looks good and sounds good, but people fail to give it the critical analysis and investigation it requires.

One area that Gower didn’t look at is investment scams, and I’ve nearly fallen for that myself. Back in the late ’90s, I bought some new shares in a Los Angeles TV movie production company as I was in a similar field myself (not something I would do now). They invited me to visit their operation and it checked out. But the shares were never listed as they said they would be and about 7 years later out of the blue came a strange offer to buy them at a price that I thought sounded too good. I promptly sent the fraudster docs to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, who to their credit promptly replied saying it was certainly a scam and despite pretending to be in the U.S., were almost certainly not. They wanted all the details of the contacts, which I gave them. (The company ultimately was taken over about 6 years ago and now I own shares in a Green Energy producer, which California and Biden administration policies should favor, but I’m not holding my breath.)

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

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