Do you fit the profile of a scam victim?
Much is known about the personalities of con artists and their methods. But consumers with certain character traits and behaviors may be more prone than others to becoming victims, according to the Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Young people — from adolescents to college students — are potential victims because although they may understand the workings of sophisticated scams, they do not take the necessary precautions to protect themselves, particularly when using computers and smart phones.
They also may share too much information on social media sites.
It also is well-established that the elderly are prime targets for fraud because they may not understand some of the ways scammers can trick them into handing over personal and financial information.
Values and behavior matter, too
But age alone does not determine who will most likely become a victim. The other two determining factors are personal values and behavior.
Here are some of the traits common among scam victims:
They take someone at their word: Victims tend to not do their homework, ask questions, or check with BBB before signing a contract or putting down a deposit.
They are afraid of being rude: They don't want to hang up the phone or shut the door, even if they are not interested in whatever the peddler is selling.
They don't recognize common high-pressure tactics: These include persuasion, "time-limited" offers, calls to action to "do it now," or pestering over the telephone or at the front door.
Use different passwords
They don't protect their personal information: They don't lock up or shred their documents. They use the same password for every online account.
They let themselves get emotional: They are often motivated by fear, greed, romance, a sense of urgency or excitement. They are easily moved to respond to threatening phone calls or emails, fake charities, lotteries and investment scams.
They don't read the fine print: Some individuals and websites are hoping that consumers don't find or read fine print, which may contain restrictions that put them at a disadvantage or make a product or service all but useless.
Think before you click
They act impulsively: They download files, click on pop-up ads, sign-up for trial offers and open emails from unknown senders.
They are worried about money: They may have recently lost their job or have increased debt and place hope in work-at-home offers and phony employment offers through which they can lose money or be coerced into giving up personal information that will be used for identity theft.
They are embarrassed: They won't tell anyone about being scammed, so that the perpetrator gets away and the scam continues.
Scammers are polite and convincing
Criminals who commit these kinds of fraud are typically very polite, will lavish praise upon their victims, used a convincing pitch or hard luck story, or claim they are affiliated with the government, police or even the BBB.
Knowledge is the ultimate tool to prevent becoming the victim of a scam:
Use an ounce of prevention: Add your home telephone number to the Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov, or 888-382-1222). This is no guarantee that unscrupulous telemarketers won't call, but it can dramatically reduce the number of solicitations.
Cell phones do not have to be registered; legitimate telemarketers are forbidden from calling mobile telephones.
Be skeptical: Err on the side of caution when anybody calls or emails asking for information to "update your file," whether or not they claim to be from a government agency, financial institution, insurance company or doctor's office.
No legitimate caller will ask for credit card numbers, your Social Security number, date of birth or any other personal information. If you receive such a contact, find the telephone number yourself and call the appropriate department or office.
Be realistic: It cannot be emphasized enough that you cannot win a lottery you did not enter and that you should never pay for anything that is offered as "free." And just because an individual or several friends tell you about a great investment opportunity, seek expert advice rather than following tips when investing money.
Be careful when giving out info
Keep your name, address, email address and telephone numbers to yourself. Any time you deal with a third party, there is a risk of your personal information being stolen or misused.
Keep this in mind when you are asked to give out this information to register for a discount card or website. Open a separate email account and use it only for website and product registration.
You can find additional helpful tips at www.bbb.org/connecticut.