What would you rather have happen to you? A Russian ring of hackers has infiltrated your computer and smartphone and is hell-bent on taking control of your finances, social media life, even the smart gadgets in your house…OR…you’ve just been diagnosed with paranoid psychosis, and in fact, nobody’s out to harm you at all.

12DIn a day and age where it’s become increasingly easy for hackers to hijack your credit card and bank accounts, spy on your baby by hacking into the baby-cam and spy on you via your laptop’s camera … the line between paranoia and real-life spying has become very muddled.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a day that goes by that someone contacts me completely convinced they are being spied on. Maybe they are, most likely they are not. Especially when they begin to explain how every device they own and seems to know everything about them and so on. The likelihood of a hacker having control over their TV is pretty small.

For example, 30 years ago if someone said, “Someone is watching me through my computer,” we’d just assume that person was delusional and needed some medication. Nowadays, we’re apt to immediately think, “Put tape on your laptop’s camera hole!”

So how can we weed out the crazies from the true victims? Just because your laptop has a camera hole doesn’t mean you can’t be imagining that your ex-spouse is spying on you through it.

Many claims of fraud or victimization are real, and many are deliberately made up for financial gain (e.g., faking back pain after a fender bender) or are the result of mental illness.

Sometimes, it’s obvious when the claim is fraudulent or the result of being “crazy.” In fact, the tip-offs that it’s mental illness at play are more obvious than when it’s fraud, since the con artist can be quite skilled.

A general rule of thumb is to look at the simplicity—or lack thereof—of the case. Is the claimed cause simple or convoluted?

For example, you hear a crash, race into the living room and see that your favorite vase—which is located near the bottom of the staircase—has been broken to smithereens. Near the vase is a basketball. At the top of the staircase are your two young sons with scared looks on their faces.

They cough up an explanation: “We were in the living room reading. The basketball was on the floor. A gust of wind blew through the window so hard that it tossed the basketball into the vase. We thought you’d blame us so we ran up the stairs.”

Common sense must be used in determining the most probable cause of an event. This holds for parents, claims adjustors, detectives and juries at a trial. The best judge views things through the lens of simplicity.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

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