Friday, August 21, 2009

A Gentler Time

I've been digging through some old files at work, and darned if I didn't discover today that phishing predates the internet by a long, long time - who knew?

From the monthly newsletter of a certain Texas Chamber of Commerce, Vol 3. No. 4, April 1968

National BB Bureau Warns of “Bank Examiner” Swindle

The National Better Business Bureau warned today that the so-called “bank examiner” swindle – a bizarre con game widely used a few years ago to bilk elderly widows of their savings – has cropped up again in some areas of the country.

NBBB said the most recent case involved an elderly La Salle, Illinois, woman who was defrauded of $1,800 by a fast-talking con man who represented himself as an officer of the local bank.

Typically, the victim was led to believe she was helping the bank lay a trap for a dishonest bank employee.

According to the National Better Business Bureau, with which the local Chamber is affiliated through membership, the swindle was widespread two years ago and may be on the rise again.

NBBB, which first exposed the racket in 1964, said the swindlers, generally two or three men working as a team and posing as bank examiners, security officers or FBI agents, choose their victims carefully.

They often spend time in lines in front of bank tellers’ windows in an attempt to observe account numbers, withdrawals or deposits of potential victims.

In the case of the Illinois woman, the swindler, posing as a bank officer, used a name that was familiar to the victim and cited the number on her passbook.

Convinced that she was being asked to help the bank in its efforts to check on the honesty of a teller, the woman, following instructions, withdrew $1,800 from her account, took the money home, and later turned it over to a man who flashed a gold badge. The woman was told the money would be redeposited in her account and a new passbook issued. When the victim finally began to worry and called the bank for reassurance, it was too late.

According to NBBB, the best advice is this: If you are contacted by a self-proclaimed bank examiner, FBI agent or bank security officer, advise him that you will call back. Disregard the number he provides and contact the local police or FBI office and explain why you are calling.

I also examined the 1954 blueprints (which are blue, I'll be darned!) for a Tourist Information Bureau on a well-traveled highway. The floor plan includes a spacious lobby with window seats and wide double entrances for visitors, a service counter, workspace behind the counter, office space, and a private restroom for the employees. There is no restroom for the public. Apparently that sort of thing wasn't necessary in the 1950's.

You gave travelers a free state highway map. They wrote you a four-page thank-you letter. Even their complaints were polite and constructive, like the one guy who gently suggested striping the center of the highway in some bright, highly visible color in order to avoid head-on collisions at night. He concluded his letter with the hope he had not made himself tiresome. I could kiss him.

Of course, he was probably a traveling con artist.

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