Saturday, 17 September 2016

Ignorance is good. Sometimes.

Ignorance is good. But only if you know that you’re ignorant. I’m ignorant about lots of things. I’m ignorant, for instance, about hydrogeology. I know what it is, it’s about water and rocks and stuff but I know little more than that so I wouldn’t dare give people advice about sinking boreholes. It would be ridiculous for me to attempt to do such a thing. I also know nothing about horse-racing so don’t ever ask me which horse you should bet on. My advice would be worthless and I wouldn’t dare offer it. I know I’m ignorant about these things.

The danger is when people are ignorant about their ignorance, either when they don’t know that they don’t know something or when they think they know something but they got their “knowledge” from the first web site they visited.

If you want a very good example of internet-based ignorance just google the words “quantum medicine” and you’ll find more than 25 million hits, almost all of which peddle the most monumental amounts of gibberish, nonsense and hogwash. I’m not an expert on quantum physics but I did do a year of undergraduate level physics and while that doesn’t qualify me as an expert it does help me to spot blithering idiocy about the subject. And that’s what almost all of it is. The trouble is that are people doing their best to sell us health products, usually bizarre boxes of electronics that they say will either diagnose disease, balance your energy levels or even treat serious medical conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. These boxes of silliness almost always have the word “quantum” in their title or make some ridiculous claim about how they use quantum physics to perform their miracles. That’s more than ignorance, that’s a clear and present danger to the lives of the ignorant.

Sometimes the practical ignorance we see it startling. In fact, “staggering gullibility” might be a better description of what we see.

Last weekend we received an email from a woman who said:
“Hello i am having a parcel of items in south africa which were sent by my husband from UK but now they are stuck in south Africa at First Flight Couriers because of unreasonable charges. i want you to help locate this people if it is not a fraud.”
You know where this is going already, don’t you? Please tell me you see already? But it’s her husband who’s sent the parcel? Can that be true? I asked her for more details and she replied:
“My Husband is the one who sent me the parcel. the parcel contained an Apple iphone6, a laptop shoes and jewellery. The person who called me said she is Miss sheriff from First flight couriers at O.R Tambo airport.”
So it’s still her husband? I told her I was certain this was a scam and asked her if she had sent any money yet and whether her husband lived in the UK. She said:
“yes my husband is in UK. I Have sent the money about P15000”
I still wasn’t convinced so I very politely asked her if she was really sure it was her husband who’d sent the package, how long he’d been living in the UK and how long they’d been married. That’s when I got a bit more clarity. She responded:
“we havent been married but we have been dating for about a year and half that is to say he is my boyfriend actually”
Now we were getting somewhere. I asked if in fact she’d ever met her husband, sorry boyfriend, in person?
“No we were talking on calls through the phone and whatsapp”
So that sort of boyfriend. The sort of boyfriend she’s never actually met, who exists solely via her cellphone, the sort who only has a cellphone number?

I asked for a few more details about her boyfriend. She told me that
“he is single and has one child but they have divorced with the mother of the child. He said he owns a shopping mall.”
It’s the same old story. Almost always the scammer presents himself as mature and financially stable but often with a child. That all lends credibility to the story. But only a little bit.

It was time to make sure that she really understood the bad news, that she’s been scammed. I told her clearly and also explained that that shipping company name has been used with other scammers before. I told her that there was no parcel, there was no real shipping company, there wasn’t even an actual boyfriend, this whole story, in fact the entire “relationship” had been designed to get that money from her.

Her response was inevitable.
“Oh my God! Really?? what am i going to do with this”
I didn’t know what to say. Her P15,000 had gone, never to be seen again by her for the simple reason that scammers don’t ever offer refunds. They’re criminals with no conscience who prey on the staggeringly gullible, on the people who are ignorant of the ways of wicked people.

This story isn’t unique, you’ve probably heard it before, I know I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard it. Luckily most times the victim comes to us first and we can illuminate them with a little knowledge but sadly they sometimes get to us too late and their money has gone already.

That’s why we need to spread the word about ignorance. We need to educate people that ignorance isn’t a bad thing so long as you recognize it, In fact, it’s an opportunity to grow your mind. The mission that we should all undertake is to combat the types of ignorance that threaten us and the people we care about. Isn’t that what caring people do?

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