The federal government received almost 2.7 million complaints in a one-year period from consumers who were victimized through fraud, deceit and other tactics associated with a scam artist. The toll of all of the reported scams, confidence games and tricks are estimated to cost their victims almost $1 billion a year. The best way to protect yourself and your family from being victimized by telephone, internet or in-person scams and fraudulent schemes is to know how these schemes work and learn how to recognize and avoid them.
Unlike a robber who brandishes a gun or other weapon to force you to give up your money, scam artists use their wits and an understanding of human nature to make their victims voluntarily give up their money and other valuables to them. Instead of the robber’s technique of instilling fear in a victim, a well-played scam relies upon winning the trust of victims who willingly relinquish their valuables based upon the faith they have in the scam artist.
Scam artists have a keen understanding of human nature and use it to exploit their victims. They identify a victim’s greed, vanity, desperation, innocence and other common character traits and exploit them to persuade victims to trust them or to cause a lapse in good judgment.
The primary tools of the trade for scam artists are deception and the ability to quickly adapt their “pitch” to the response they get from the person they target. Whether the contact between a con artist and victim takes place on the street, by telephone or over the internet, winning the trust of the victim is essential.
Trust can be won through persuasion or by making the victim believe there is a common bond with the scam artist. This bond can be established by the way a con artist speaks or through the way they dress. For example, a scam artist attempting to entice a victim into investing in a phony investment scheme must talk using language someone would immediately associate with an investment adviser and dress in a way that conveys the illusion of success and wealth.
If you are uncertain about the identity or background of a person approaching or contacting you, taking the person’s word about who they are or about their credentials is a mistake. Scam artists are experts at exploiting people and catering to human weaknesses. Before handing over money or entering into an agreement with someone you do not know, a quick online search could reveal if the person claiming to be a financial wiz is actually someone with an extensive criminal record.
The types of scams and fraudulent schemes are limited only by the limits of the imagination of the criminals who devise them. Some of the common scams and frauds include the following:
If you are approached by someone offering you a deal that appears too good to be true, it could be a scam. An online public records search of the individual, company or organization making the offer could alert you to possible risks.
The best way to avoid being the victim of a scam artist is to do some research before giving or sending money or providing personal information, such as Social Security numbers. Online searches are easy to do and provide a wealth of information about the person, business or organization contacting you. Being information and cautious could keep you from becoming the victim of a scam artist.