Fall for

If you “fall for” a trick or a scam, then you believe it’s true and you become a victim of the trick or the scam.

Today's story: Death of the password
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Fall for

Today’s English expression is a phrasal verb, “fall for.” If you fall for a trick or a scam, then you believe it’s true and you become a victim of the trick or the scam.

Earlier today, I was bemoaning the difficulties of using a password . We experience that every day as consumers. But your employer, university, or any large organization hates passwords for another reason: users fall for phishing scams, where a hacker tries to trick them into revealing their passwords.

A “phishing” scam is when an outside person e-mails you pretending to be someone you trust. Then, building on that trust, they try to get you to reveal sensitive information, like your password. The scammer could imitate a trusted brand like a bank or online service. It could also be someone imitating your company’s IT department. Here’s how a scam might go. You might get an official-looking e-mail that appears to be from your own company’s IT or HR department. They tell you that you have to fill out a mandatory form, and you should start by entering your Windows password.

If you fall for that scam—if you believe that scam and become a victim—then you might allow a hacker to access all your company’s systems remotely. Don’t fall for that!

I mentioned earlier, too, about two-factor authentication. My bank, Chase, uses text-messaging as the second authentication factor. So I log on with my password and they send a text message to my phone. I use the code in the text to prove that I’m me. But here’s a common scam. Someone guesses your password and tries to log on as you. You get a text from the bank with the one-time code. Then the scammer calls you, pretending to be from your bank, and asks for you for the code. A lot of people fall for that: they willingly give the code over the phone to a scammer. The believe the trick and become a victim.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the Tinder Swindler documentary on Netflix. It reminded me of Lesson 375 , when we talked about online dating scams . The documentary describes how one man tricked many women across Europe into sending him tens of thousands of euros. He used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle. Some people watched the documentary and asked themselves, how could those women have fallen for such a scheme? But as I watched it, I could absolutely understand how they fell for that scam. The swindler created an elaborate backstory and built up trust and credibility over several months. The women were in love. They were generous and kind-hearted. And, sadly, they fell for a scam. They believed the scam to be true and they were the victims.

Quote of the Week

Today’s quote is about creativity. It’s by Erich Fromm, a German psychologist. He says, “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” That is on my mind these days; I’ll share more about what I mean in the coming months. For now, ponder this quote: “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties,” according to Erich Fromm.

See you next time!

And that’s all for today’s Plain English lesson. This was number 460, which means you can find the full lesson at PlainEnglish.com/460. If you go there, to PlainEnglish.com/460, you’ll find the step-by-step video associated with today’s lesson. And the video today is all about emphasizing a positive statement. The way I’m going to show you will allow you to almost pre-emptively resolve any doubts in your listeners’ minds…and it’s with just one tiny little word. Just two letters can be so powerful in a sentence in this way. That’s all at PlainEnglish.com/460, and remember the video lessons are for Plain English Plus+ members. If you’re ready to upgrade your English and really dive into all the great content we produce each week, then come join us at PlainEnglish.com/Plus

Remember, we’ll be back with a continuation of today’s topic on Thursday, when I’ll show you what, exactly, a password-less future might look like. I can’t wait for it—see you then.

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Story: Death of the password