How Scams Work and Five Ways to Avoid

How Scams Work

Thinking you are beyond being able to be scammed is your first mistake. Those who have thought deep and long about how to take advantage of others are far beyond the obvious scams we usually hear about.  A Scam is simply a “Confidence Game” or “Con Game.”  They gain your confidence that they are who they say they are and then fool you into giving them money, information/access to your assets or property.

Having been effectively scammed, I have a new realization and appreciation for the depth of evil which truly does lurk in the heart of Scammers and Con-Men or Con-Women.

Snatch
Movie “Snatch” at IMDB.com

It can be as simple as someone trying to sell you something they do not actually own but requiring your down payment or goodwill payment to prove you are sincere and capable of buying the object.  Or slightly more complex for example; a guy who shows up at an older person’s door and says as a former Fireman he could not help but notice some defect in their chimney.  He points out that this could easily lead to a fire and since the chimney was in need of repair, a negligence finding on the fire would invalidate the insurance.    But, (hear he offers to save you) if you give me $500 or maybe $750 or $1400 (the amount often depends on what you look like you can afford in that neighborhood) in cash now I’ll be happy to repair it for you.  If you like, I’ll even drive you to the bank to get the money.

Perhaps, it’s a simple phone scam where robot-calls keep throwing out bait of an unexpected inheritance or windfall you can receive if you’d only call back our Attorney at this number to set things in motion.  When you “bite” by returning the call they ask for your banking information and access in order to be able to deposit directly to your account.  (In reality, they will be making a substantial withdrawal).  Or maybe, in order to start the process, you just need to send in $300 cash or maybe buy $500 in iTunes Gift Cards and read off the numbers to them.   This is for the Attorney or Processing Fees or Government Taxes to release the money you will be getting and so on.  (I wonder what percentage of Apple phones are sold to scammers using credits scammed from people who bought iTunes Store Gift Cards.)

Example 2 – Deep Scam – But beyond these simple scams are the progressively deeper scams, that really do exist, not just in movies.  These scams are based on an understanding of the person’s history and past and specifically targeted towards them with the idea of inducing panic, terror and fear in order to bully then into compliance.  For example, someone calls you purporting to be a Law Officer, say a Deputy Sheriff in your County.   He is calling to let you know they were getting ready to release the warrant for your arrest for some past offense or unresolved issue or maybe as a result of a change in law you are no longer in compliance.  Maybe, it was a speeding ticket captured on camera that you never received or pitched as junk mail, but the fines now total $3,000.  They are calling to determine if you are at home because they are coming to arrest you, but the Deputy offers:  If you pay the fine now in cash vouchers (Money Pks’s to name one) you can avoid being arrested but will still need to come in to sign the paperwork.  Oh, no, they cannot take a Credit or Debit Card, Check, Money Order, etc., it must be a cash voucher now or they will assume you are unwilling and are trying to abscond, that is to evade arrest.  They build you into a state of excitement and high anxiety.  Even when your brain is telling you this sounds fishy, they escalate the fear, raise their voices and threaten to hang up and send out the order to arrest you on site for attempting to evade arrest and adding a new offense to the unpaid offense.  Each question you have is answered convincingly or swatted away with a counter-attack on your willingness to resolve this dispute or waste their time, just when they were trying to be nice.  They may even have levels of personnel if ask to speak to someone higher up, he is available and of course part of the Scammer Team so he is even better at managing your panic.

With many people, the anxiety and fear overtake rational thought and they accede to the requests, actually driving out to stores to buy iTunes Gift Cards or Money Vouchers of one sort or another, reading the numbers over the phone, etc.   (Yes, sadly to say that was me).

Matchstick Men
Movie “Matchstick Men” at IMDB.com

In some cases, the scam then heightens, maybe a Superior in the office comes back on the call to advise you the Deputy was newly hired and in error, your fine is actually $4,200 and you are short and must go get more cash cards now.  They even tell you exactly where to find them, how to buy them, (which in reality keeps from arousing suspicion in the store where you are buying them.)  During all this they require you to stay on the phone or be arrested.  “If you hang up I will consider that you are attempting to abscond and will immediately release the warrant for your arrest on that charge.  This removes your opportunity to call a relative or friend or anybody else for help or simply to ask their opinion; which will probably be “Hang up and call an Attorney or the local Police.”

In these higher level scams, even those who consider themselves immune to this kind of trickery can be fooled.  These higher level scams are in fact just like in the movies.  They have gotten information about you off the internet, Facebook, Linkedin, or a variety of other sources.  Many may have even purchased data reports from a myriad of online people search engines that provide deeper reports on your financial transactions, residences, legal records, property records, etc.  They research their subjects carefully and study and prepare just as you see in the movies.  And when they attack, it is both subtle and smooth, at first appearing to be helpful public servants but gradually turning into public servants with a short fuse, insulted that you would doubt them when they are trying to help, etc. and always ready to pull the plug on your life by invoking the threat of fine, arrest, jail and disruption of your life.

Five Ways to Avoid Scams

  1. Anyone who insists you stay on the phone that is not a call you made to 911 – Hang up immediately and call a friend or the police or an attorney or whoever makes you feel better and talk about it. However, if you have a smart phone you can text others at the same time you are still on the phone, opening up an avenue to get a “second opinion” from others who will probably also say “Hang up.”  Maybe you can place a second call and conference in the police.
  2. Anyone who asks you to give them confidential financial information over the phone or to go buy money vouchers or iTunes cards or Debit Cards, etc. to resolve some issue, Hang Up. It’s a scam.  Nobody does business that way except scammers, crooks and drug dealers.
  3. Anyone who purports to be a Law Enforcement Officer asking for any kind of money tell them to stop by your residence or write you a letter and then hang-up. If you think there might be some validity to their call, then you can call a lawyer but that is also a cost, so I would simply keep an attorney’s number on your person in the event you ever need it.
  4. Anyone who comes to your house offering to correct some problem for cash you should be wary. Does the amount of money sound reasonable for the work?  Is the work really necessary; can you see the problem or have others pointed it out before, does it really exist?  Maybe a second opinion and competitive bids would be a better which buys you some time.  If the kid on the street is painting numbers on the curb at $25 each, then he’s a small businessman, but if it’s somebody offering to straighten your leaning brick mailbox for $2,000 it’s a scam, the going rate is a few hundred dollars.  If you’re going to spend more than $200 for anything, get competitive bids or at least look at any two alternatives, then take time to ensure you get the best work done by professionals.
  5. When in doubt do what I did, a little late unfortunately, I drove to the local Police Department with the Con-Men on the phone and asked them about it. They took one look at my handful of Apple iTunes $100 cards and said, “It’s a scam.” When they took my phone to talk to the self-reported Officer he hung up.   Then they verified that the real  officer, whose name was used and was real, was actually home in bed at the time.  So, my scammers impersonated a law officer and quite effectively.  They knew things about me that showed they had in depth information about me and customized their approach to target me and squeeze me for as much as they possibly could.  A costly lesson learned but learned it I have.

This source lists several sources for information before investing or losing your money all listed at the bottom.   Conmen and How to Avoid Them

 

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