Scammers – what to look out for (Part 1)
Posted on 27th February 2023
National research has looked at financial fraud and scamming. It includes universities and national organisations such as the National Trading Standards Scams team and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.
One very clear message is that many of us underestimate just how devious and clever these scammers can be.
Scammers know how to win our confidence and trust and are very persuasive. They are happy to take advantage of the elderly and vulnerable, but all of us could be at risk.
This is the first of a three-part series looking at scamming and how to avoid it.
How scammers work
These criminals use techniques designed to make people feel at ease and to hide any cause for concern.
They use familiarity as reassurance; they play on natural protective instincts to stop victims asking for support. They use all sorts of strategies to draw people in and justify their behaviour. They exploit all types of situations, including panic, uncertainty and isolation. They use people’s natural concerns to convince them they are making reasonable choices.
Carers, family members and friends can all be on the lookout for the warning signs of a scam. Most importantly, they can reassure victims that they aren’t at fault.
What is a scam?
Scams are a type of fraud. The criminals extort money or steal other things of value by manipulating language and distorting information. They deliberately isolate their victims from their support network.
Specifically, they use skilfully designed language to:
play on vulnerabilities
Often their victims don’t realise they have been deliberately pressured into an abusive relationship with the scammer. They will choose language carefully to make their behaviour and requests seem reasonable and expected. They will make their victim seem unreasonable if they resist.
Why scammers are so difficult to uncover
The scammer’s tactics convince victims they are making reasonable and rational decisions. This makes it very difficult to recognise their activities as fraud.
An urgent request for money might normally be cause for concern. However, when it’s made in a carefully constructed context it can sound plausible. This is why people who aren’t involved find it difficult to understand why warning signs were missed.
Types of scams
The scammer’s success relies on someone’s individual circumstances. Some scams can last many months, such as online romances that end with requests for money. Others only need a letter, email, telephone call or house visit.
The shorter scams often target specific vulnerabilities or an individual’s expectations or needs. This doesn’t only apply to old, ill or lonely people. Scams often appear to offer a way to improve your financial, physical or mental wellbeing, for example.
During the pandemic scammers offered counterfeit personal protective equipment such as face masks or hand sanitisers. The products were unlikely to provide any protection, adding to the risk of infection, but the scammers didn’t care.
There’s more detail about how scammers work in the next part.
A lasting power of attorney (LPA) might be an option worth considering if you are concerned about a vulnerable family member or friend. it would allow you to make decisions on their behalf if they no longer have the capacity to do so.
Share this post: