Don’t talk to strangers

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

It was good advice then, and it is still good advice today. Back when telephones were rotary dial and telegrams went through wires, our parents often told us never to speak to strangers. It was a word of caution against perverts, predators or even kidnappers. Today I find the same to hold true, especially in our digital age where a simple “Hi” or a “friend request” on social media could expose us to a hacker or a troll.

Sadly, the sophistication of today’s digital criminals, according to Commissioner Raymund Liboro of the National Privacy Commission, is far greater than the competence or skills of the average internet or mobile phone user. The hackers and miners on the internet are so skilled and patient that they are like Dr. Frankenstein who would steal “digital body parts” in the form of data over a period of time and would then put together their creature to carry out illegal transactions or misrepresentations elsewhere.

Contrary to popular belief, all our anti-virus apps and services are low level protection against determined syndicates or hackers similar to those who, a few months ago, hacked and duplicated hundreds if not thousands of Facebook accounts. Oftentimes unwary victims of hackers are those who clicked on the unknown, unfamiliar, seductive or exciting, as well as to fight trolls. Everything is designed to trigger your response and once you open a window long enough, you are caught.

Rather than be curious, Mr. Angel Redoble – chief information security officer of PLDT & Smart telecoms – agrees that being “paranoid” about all these prompts, click baits and emails actually helps reduce our risks. While being paranoid, it is also helpful that we familiarize ourselves with the processes and conduct of behavior of companies and services we enlist or use. Instead of automatically clicking, confirming or responding to anything involving funds, purchases or finances, CALL your bank manager, account manager or person in-charge and ask.

Just yesterday, I also realized that sometimes face-to-face transactions are better because all these bank-to-bank transfers often take time to appear and then you have to send a copy or image of the transaction confirmation but if you are not a “friend” or if the internet on the other end is poor, things could be repetitious. We wasted 30 minutes completing the process that would have been over and done with had I simply paid in cash.

Back in the 80s while living in the US I did all my transactions or purchases with cash. My American friends initially found it strange but they eventually realized that when you pay cash, storeowners or retailers were inclined to give you an additional discount. Another advantage is that I never over spent because once the cash was gone, it was gone. No plastics and pens to get me into debt!

Nowadays when so many people are so taken in by online shopping, the best thing is to deal only with sellers that your friends or family members have dealt with and have good customer reviews. It also helps to have good old common sense. Avoid buying high end products from “strangers” or “digital companies” that could be robots or disposable entities. We stick with established distributors, dealers and brands to avoid “rock in a box” purchases from scammers. Whatever you do, don’t forget what your Mama said: Don’t Talk To Strangers.

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“Only God knows” and we are better off sticking to that mantra and carry on. If I got a dollar for every time some government official or medical expert said that things will be better next month or on Christmas or in 2022, chances are I will have enough money to buy lots of steaks plus enough eggs to throw at the soothsayers or misfortune tellers. What is the point or intent of these tea leaf readers by forecasting that we will be mask-less by Christmas 2021 or that Christmas will be happy compared to last? They can’t even forecast deliveries and arrivals of vaccines from abroad. The best of the best in medicine and pandemic management can’t tell when or where the next deadly variants will pop up, but already some people are making prophecies for Christmas!

Instead of wasting air time and interviews talking about things no one has control over, not even the most advanced countries in the world, we should put our efforts in educating Filipinos about the advantages of being vaccinated, the types of vaccines and the coverage or protection as well as the risks even after being vaccinated, particularly in the provinces.

For example, here in our place in Lipa, Batangas, I practically had to bully workers into getting vaccinated. They hesitated because a granddaughter of our caretaker had an adverse reaction to a vaccine that was injected in school years ago that left the girl with lifelong complications. I had to explain that the child had a pre-existing condition that no one saw which caused the problem. After two weeks, they all agreed to go and get vaccinated. Yesterday, the caretaker texted to inform me that her son was at the vaccination site but that they ran out of Sinovac and only had Pfizer. She asked if Pfizer was also OK? Some people are so lucky and don’t even know it.

Yes Virginia, many people in the provinces are completely unaware or ignorant of their options and choices. Some are afraid to go because they don’t know what to expect! These are the hundreds of concerns we should address and stop fortune telling whether or not Christmas will be happy!

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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