Avoiding Scams and Cons
Protecting yourself from scams and cons means protecting your personal and family goals from those who will unscrupulously take money from you.
Scammers do not concern themselves with the concepts of lying and deceit. Many scammers feel that people deserve to have their money taken from them if they are not smart enough to avoid the scam. Many scammers simply see their scams an opportunity to provide themselves the income they need to support their lifestyle—much like the average person is actively employed. Their focus is solely on themselves.
Because scammers constantly morph their practices as people become wise to them, there’s no definitive list of things that will completely insulate you from being scammed. However, there are a few concepts that can help you be better prepared to avoid being scammed.
Be skeptical in every situation you face. Whether it’s an e-mail link, a social media friend request, mailer, or a door to door salesperson’s pitch, evaluate everything carefully. If you feel the need, seek assistance of a family member or trusted friend to help you evaluate the situation. Do some in-depth research using independent sources rather than those presented by the potential scammer. Contact the company directly to discuss what is being presented to you, seek out reputable reviews from other customers, and most importantly do not hesitate to walk away if you do not find supportive information.
Keep your emotions in check. An effective technique for scammers is to promise a prize, present a problem, or otherwise excite your emotions which will cause you to respond emotionally rather than rationally. They won’t think twice about claiming a child has cancer as a method to trigger a sympathetic response from you. They also won’t hesitate to express their own emotions such as crying or expressing anger if they feel the tactic will progress you along a course of action advantageous to them.
Suppress any fear of missing out. The “fear of missing out” is a very strong emotional response that scammers frequently prey on. They may present the dream vacation that you have always wanted to enjoy or the return on an investment that beats everything else. The scammer may tell you about how they have enjoyed this same vacation themselves or how they have already doubled their money in the investment. If something sounds too good to be true, it is likely not true. Refrain from thinking that you are lucky enough to be the exception to the adage that nothing of value is easy.
Protect your information and never share personal information with others. Scammers will utilize whatever information you present to them. Certainly never provide bank or other personal or sensitive information with strangers or online. But also never provide what may appear to be meaningless information to them. A popular example is posts on social media asking questions such as “If you were to visit your favorite vacation spot, where would you go?” Many people fall for the bait of these questions—in this example many people respond with their honeymoon location which is also a common security question used by financial institutions. Also, be careful what you present in social media as scammers will use anything they can in their efforts. Evaluate your social media settings to restrict who can see your prifile or posts. Each bit of personal data online gives scammers a bit more of an edge in either hacking your accounts or gaining your confidence in them.
Take your time. Time is definitely on your side when confronted with a potential scam. If a scammer thinks that you are taking too long to give them what they are wanting, they will usually either expose themselves as scammers by stepping up their demands or move onto the next person. Any pressure to take immediate action should be considered as not being in your interest and therefore only in the interest of the scammer. The only thing you should do in a hurry is stop responding to the scammer’s demands or requests. They can be aggressive and even abusive. Do not hesitate to call a family member or trusted person for assistance.
Know that even though you may consider yourself to be smart, you could fall for a scam. The fact is that many people will only recognize that they have been scammed AFTER they have been scammed. The best scammers are not sleazy--at least on the surface. They will present themselves as a good neighbor, parent of beautiful children, a church-going person, or whatever they feel you might think is the kind of person you might want to associate with. If you recognize that you are just as vulnerable as everyone else, you will more easily heed sound advice that may help you avoid scams, or hopefully at least minimize the damage of a scam.
Never pay anyone money without fully vetting the transaction. This may include having a written contract before payment, completely verifying the company and the product or service you are purchasing, or anything else you might have with any transaction that you initiate with a trusted company. Never make a payment directly to a salesperson. And never make deals with a salesperson pertaining to an opportunity not associated with the salesperson’s employment.
What do you do if you have been scammed? Refer to “Report Scams and Frauds” (linked to https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds) for a listing of where to report scams.
Unfortunately, a frequent response to being scammed is doing nothing in an effort to hide from the embarrassment of being scammed. This simply allows the scammer to continue to scam others.
If you would like to discuss situations where you or loved ones may have been scammed or are in the process of being scammed, please contact us today.