Believe it or not, true scam artists rely on many of the same tactics as legitimate sales and marketing professionals. They know how to play on your emotions and make you think you’re getting something for nothing. The difference is, of course, that what they’re getting you to buy into either doesn’t exist or is worth much less than what you’re paying. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), thousands of people report being scammed each year by imposters posing as everyone from IRS agents to computer tech support. Understanding how these scams work can help you avoid becoming a victim.
How Scam Artists Draw You in
Good scam artists are great at what they do and there is no shame in being fooled by one of them. However, with a little skepticism and knowledge of their tactics, you can sniff out a potential scam before you get reeled in. Watch out for the following scam artist strategies:
- Building a relationship. Once a face-to-face interaction on doorsteps and on city streets, scam artists are now able to establish rapport and build a relationship with their victims online through email or websites. Once they believe they have your trust, they will take advantage your “relationship” to get money from you.
- Establishing credibility. Scammers pose as IRS agents, debt collectors, and even police officers to establish credibility with you. They have the technology to alter caller ID numbers, create fake websites that look just like their legitimate counterparts, and hack email accounts of people you know so you think you are hearing from a friend.
- Playing on emotions. Using threats of legal action or requiring a quick decision can convince even the most skeptical person to take a risk. Claiming an emergency situation or a limited-time offer, the scammer is hoping you will lower your defenses and act on your emotions instead of on your logic.
8 Ways to Keep Yourself Safe from Scams
So, if scam artists are really this good, how can you avoid falling prey? The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to consumers:
- Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
- Take time to research the organization.
- Never provide your personal information (address, date-of-birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know.
- Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
- If you are unsure about a call or email that claims to be from your bank, utility company, etc., call the business directly using the number on your bill or credit card.
- Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
- Never send money for an emergency situation unless you can verify the emergency.
- Never accept money from from someone to put in your bank account, since they can then find your account number at the bank and deplete it.
Remember to trust your instincts. If you receive a call or email that makes you suspicious, end the communication and contact the agency directly. If someone calls claiming to be an IRS agent, call the IRS yourself. It never hurts to double check.
If you have found this article helpful, share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. Spread the word about scams and the scammers’ job will be that much harder.