Have you ever had a run-in with a scammer? If you haven’t, you are very lucky. Scams are everywhere. Did you know there is a science to a scammers’ madness?
As humans, we all have the desire to be liked, to protect and defend our loved ones and ourselves, to seek financial security and gain, and to get free stuff. We also generally try not to be rude or unkind, and we want to believe the best about everyone.
Scammers always go where the money is, but all scammers have one other thing in common, a great knowledge of human nature. They use these human traits to try to separate us from our money. Studies have found everyone is susceptible to the likelihood of becoming a scam victim. Our gender, income level or education makes little difference.
Be aware of how scammer uses human nature to fleece consumers:
•Scammers prey on our emotions. For example, they know of the basic human trait of helping and protecting our loved ones, so they employ “emergency” scenarios claiming a loved one needs your help immediately and to send money now. They know situations like these often lead to emotional, irrational reactions where reasoning flies out the door.
In emotional situations such as these, never react quickly to a request for money. Call another family member or trusted friend to verify the situation.
•Scammers work on the knowledge that most of us have a strong desire for financial gain and security and will often jump at bogus investment opportunities. Do you think that only uneducated losers are victims of these scams? Think again! Think Bernie Madoff. He duped some of the brightest, most successful, most educated people around out of millions. As a matter of fact, victims of investment scams are likely to be male, more likely to have some college education and report an annual income of $50,000 or more.
Your best defense against investment fraud is to thoroughly do your research. Don’t fall for the “limited time, once-in-a-lifetime” or “work-from-home” pitches. If the financial gains seem too good to be true, most likely it is. Trustworthy broker-dealers and investment advisers are licensed. Check out prospective agents and advisers at www.finra.org/brokercheck.
•Scammers gain access to your important information by using trial offers and free gifts. Unsuspecting consumers often fill out forms that come in the mail or click on links in emails from firms they aren’t familiar with, thinking the offers are legitimate. Scammers use fake websites as well as professional-looking brochures and cards to entice people into submitting their credit card, Social Security and bank account numbers. Often, even if there is an actual product or service, scammers rely on consumers failing to read the fine print. For example, instead of a limited trial period, the fine print authorizes scammers to automatically bill their credit card unless specifically notified by the victim.
Again, do your research. Protect yourself by knowing who you are dealing with and, if satisfied you are working with a legitimate business, always read everything before you mail or submit your personal information.
If you are ever in doubt about a business, check with your BBB, local prosecutors and law enforcement officials to see if any complaints have been filed.
Remember, don’t be a victim. Healthy doses of wariness, research and education are your best defenses to your own human nature!
Cheryl Parson is President of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.