Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Lynda, the Fighter of Sharks, Scams, and Scammers!

Lynda Williams is a web designer and Internet user who I created JerkAlerts.com in March of 2009 to educate and protect other users from the scams she has seen practiced online. Lynda has been safely meeting people - and declining to meet people - on the Internet for more than a decade, but it's only recently that she started thinking about the very real toll these Internet scammers are taking on intelligent (and sometimes not-so-intelligent) men and women throughout the world. Lynda took action: She wanted to do something to help stop the spread of these scams and protect my fellow Internet users. (And this she did, and is doing!)

Lynda has a theory about why intelligent people, usually who practice good common sense, are being taken by these scams. She believes it's an aspect of human nature that we believe of others what is true of ourselves. If we lie, we expect to be lied to. If we steal, we expect to be stolen from. If we run scams, we expect people to try to scam us. And if we're honest – and let's face it, the vast majority of people are as honest as the day is long – we expect those we deal with to be just as honest. And there are plenty of sharks out there ready to take advantage of that fact.

Like all of us, Lynda has seen and deleted countless emails and messages at places like
MySpace.com, Tagged.com, and sometimes even Facebook.com, that were obvious – to her, anyway – scams or come-ons. After 15 years of "playing" on the Internet, she has gotten pretty good at it. Lynda recently begain reporting these scammers to the sites where they have their profiles as well as at PigBusters.net and was often successful (usually because she's the one of many who report) in getting those profiles removed. But they just pop up somewhere else under a different name, with different details. Lynda took it a step further: She decided that reporting them wasn't enough and she had to take a more active role.

After posting a journal on her profile at
Tagged.com, entitled "Jerk Alert", to make people aware of a particular scammer, the idea and plan for an interactive web site where users could warn, educate, and protect each other, and JerkAlerts.com was born.

Most of us were told from as early as we can remember not to talk to strangers. That's fine advice for children, but we're grownups now. We can talk to strangers. Over the years, our experiences have contributed to the good judgment we can call on to determine whether someone is safe to trust or not, or whether something we read is true. Or have we?

Based on the research Lynda has done over the past few years, the experiences I've heard and read about, and the comments from people I know to be intelligent and sensible, somehow that well-earned experience deserts many of us when we sign onto that forum or social networking site. We give out personal information about where we live, where we work, and what our financial situation is. We let the world know that we live alone - or not. We pass along emails with dire warnings about viruses and missing children without verifying the facts, simply because we know the person who passed it along to us, so it must be true. It seems to be human nature that if we see it in writing, it must be true.

And it's not just ladies. There are men out there who also trust too readily. Lynda thinks that men get taken for different reasons then women, but she's not about to start a battle of the sexes debate. The point is, none of us deserve to be taken. Most of us are not stupid, but even if we are, we don't deserve to be scammed, losing our life's savings and often the savings of loved ones!

My hat's off to you Lynda!

You're definitely maximizing your potential!