Scammers are everywhere using manipulative tactics and snake oils to weasel money out of your pocket. Most of these scams aren’t particularly complicated, and Consumer Reports was able to break them down into three main strategies.
Photo by Bryan Rosengrant.
We all hear about scams, from classics like the grandparent identity theft scam to donation scams, so it seems like they’re easy to avoid if you’re simply paying attention. Yet they continue working because they tap into three motivating factors: fear, greed and generosity. Consumer Reports looked at hundreds of audiotapes of scammers pitching their deals and found a common set of strategies, regardless of the scam:
- Creating a connection. A scammer’s first task is to gain your trust so you will not question his motivations. Scammers look for hot-button issues they can use to create a connection. They will ask benign questions about your health, your family, your political views, or your hobbies…
- Establishing credibility. Scammers use lots of techniques to make themselves look legit. They may claim to be from a real business or organisation — say, the Internal Revenue Service if they’re pushing the IRS scam, or a government agency purporting to award you a grant. They may “spoof” a real phone number to fool your Caller ID or hand over a fake business card….
- Playing on your emotions. Scammers leverage your emotions to get you to make a quick decision before you have time to think. The lottery scam preys on the desire to get rich quickly and easily, the grandparent scam plays on the natural instinct to help a relative who’s supposedly in trouble, and the natural disaster scam exploits our generosity for people in need.
Of course, it’s not just silly, easily avoidable scams here. The above list of strategies is pretty common in the sales world, from shady software to pushy salespeople. Either way, it’s a nice little checklist that’s worth mentally running through if you ever feel like you’re in the midst of a scam. Head over to Consumer Reports for the full details.