Primer on Scams

Scams are when a criminal uses social engineering techniques to talk a victim into doing something that results in a financial loss. The dollar amounts can vary between a few hundred dollars to a few hundred thousand or more. There are plenty of sad stories of people getting bilked out of their entire life savings.
Some of the more common scams include:

  • Romance scams: the person pretends be a love interest or wants to build a relationship and uses trickery to get the victim to believe that they care and possibly want a long term relationship (maybe even marriage)
  • Long lost relative: someone posing as a grandchild or someone else that the victim might have lost contact with and craves to have a relationship with that person. The scammer doesn’t use guilt but instead relief that the relationship can be healed
  • Microsoft IT Scam: there’s something wrong with your computer that needs to be fixed. Typically they engineer it so the victim believes that there is something wrong with the computer
  • Online shopping: this is simply when someone advertises goods for sale on a site, someone buys and they never get the item(s)
  • Online swap shops, advertisements, or trades: the person offers to buy the item for more than it’s worth. The scam is that they send a bad check (they know it’s bad) and then ask the victim to forward money to another person. When the victim sends money from their own accounts, the learn shortly that the check bounced but because this is a scam, they may get nothing back
  • Disaster or catastrophe related: simply put, they take advantage of fear, doubt, and people’s needs during trying times to take advantage of victims. This could be fake goods, fictitious cures, supplies, etc

There are a wide variety of scams out there – be wary.

How it Works

They use a combination of different psychological techniques against their victims. This is also known as social engineering. Those techniques usually include:

  1. Use or usurping of authority – they pretend that they’re in a position of power over their intended victim. The goal being that they want to overwhelm your sense of reason by convincing you that you’re talking to a person with an organization that could make you suffer if you don’t comply.
  2. Legitimacy (similar to the use of authority) – they’ll try to make you think that they have the ability influence the outcome. “My boss is going to” or a “government agent” is making them take action against you.
  3. Empathy – they’ll try to build trust with you and empathize. They’re sorry this is happening to you and they’re just there to help you.
  4. Anger or impatience – they may yell at you, call you names, or rush you in an attempt to get you to submit to their will.
  5. Time – they’ll certainly try to get you to act fast. They’ll usually tell you the police are already on the way since you’re not complying.

If you get these in a call or text, delete them and move on. If for some reason you do become the victim of a scam, financial institutions don’t typically reimburse for losses due to scams.

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