Even as the warning from the Bel Air Police Department and the Harford County Sheriff's Office to be on guard against swindlers bears amplification, it's also something that's worth keeping in mind at all times.
In the latest incidents, confidence schemers – con men for short – posing as utility company workers were reported to be working in recent weeks in Bel Air's Howard Park neighborhood as well as in Joppa.
Over the years in Harford County, a variety of swindles have been perpetrated, or at least tried. Often, though certainly not always, they have involved scammers posing as utility company workers or the semi-official staff of some other vital but mundane agency or business.
In other instances, they're offering services, typically door-to-door, the people approached didn't even think they would need.
All too often, they target people in their golden years, preying on insecurities that stem from not being able to do some of the things regarded by younger, more spry folks as simple tasks.
Sometimes they involve phone calls. A scheme that has been run in Harford County and elsewhere in recent years involves having someone posing as a grown grandchild making contact with a grandparent to ask for money to be wired, so an emergency can be effectively dealt with.
The unfortunate reality is there are dishonest people out there who are eager to take advantage of a variety of human weaknesses. Unfortunately, an adage of another generation doesn't necessarily hold true these days. It has been postulated that it isn't possible to cheat an honest person, presumably because honest people are likely to abide by another adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
It is possible, however, to cheat an honest person, especially if that person can be motivated by fear. Often, it is the fear that failing to spend money on a service will result in disaster, or that failing to wire money to a strange location could result in harm coming to a relative or loved one.
People who try to instill fear, who claim to be from government agencies or utilities but show no identification, who make unsolicited offers for services that sound too good to be true – or too necessary to turn down, should be regarded with a high level of suspicion. This goes double if they seem to be demanding immediate decisions.
It never hurts to double check before committing to a project, signing a check or wiring money to a strange location. Failing to take such precautions could prove very costly.