Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What the scam artist looks for in a victim

This section describes a variety of characteristics that make an individual susceptible to scam artists. Seldom are all of these characteristics present in the same person, but if you find yourself identifying with two or more of them then you are more susceptible to being scammed.

Someone who is trusting

Many older people, especially those who grew up in small towns or close-knit communities, are more vulnerable to scam artists. It isn’t necessary to become suspicious and distrustful, but it is important to be aware of the obvious dangers when a person who contacts you has done nothing to deserve your trust. Be wary when approached by a stranger who asks questions about your personal life, especially when the questions are about your financial affairs.

Cultivate habits of security that will protect you when those around you may be less than trustworthy. For example, it is a poor idea to carry large amounts of cash, especially in public. Likewise, it is important not to reveal personal financial information such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and personal identification numbers. Just as you wouldn’t give someone you don’t know the key to your house, you shouldn’t share personal information with strangers.

Someone who fears admitting lack of knowledge

A person who will agree to something without fully understanding the terms and conditions can fall easy prey to a scam. A major tactic of the scam artist is to make the assumption that the victim will automatically agree with anything suggested. This assumption is particularly useful to the scam artist in situations where people are unsure of themselves. Scam artists also use a person’s fear of appearing uneducated or unsophisticated to get her to agree to their plot. Requiring those who deal with us to explain things to our level is one of the first steps to protection from the scam artist. A wise man said, “Awareness of our ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.”

Someone who may not use common sense

Everyone has a measure of common sense and experience. Unfortunately, when presented with the prospect of a free prize or get-rich-quick scheme, some people lose their common sense entirely. When faced with such schemes, it is important to get another opinion or two and take some time to consider all the ramifications.

Someone who is suffering from a serious or chronic illness

People with chronic or serious diseases are faced with the medical system that may seem unsympathetic to their plight and leaves them without much hope. Under such conditions, it is possible to be taken in by accounts of new “miracle” cures or treatments. Some scam artists may even use the idea that the “government” is preventing many new medicines from entering the United States in order to protect the medical establishment. Scam artists also take advantage of the difficulty in distinguishing between mainstream health products and those that have no real effect or are actually harmful.

Someone who trusts advertisements

Some people have a belief that if it is printed, broadcast, or on the Internet, it is “true.” However, most media have no way of screening or checking the veracity of the advertising. False ads are generally only challenged after someone complains about them. The claims and representations made in print or on the television should be subject to the same challenge as oral representations. A scam in writing is no more valid than the scam made orally.

Someone who falls for appeals of promised beauty or youth

Advertising and popular culture have created an almost universal “need” for youth and beauty. Scam artists use the advertising methods of legitimate industry to sell overpriced, marginal, or even detrimental products to the unwary consumer.

Someone who is easily intimidated

Scam artists use intimidation as a tool. Lack of self-confidence or knowledge, infirmities, and the difficulties of old age can all make us timid to some degree. Others can take advantage of those who are easily intimidated. Good communication skills are helpful in overcoming timidity, but the main key is preparation. If you are prepared, you will not be afraid. If necessary, you may need to think through intimidating situations in advance and decide on your course of action. If you feel yourself being intimidated you should be aware that you are in danger.

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