My last article touched on some of the reasons the elderly are often targeted by scammers, which got me thinking: What makes someone susceptible to becoming a fraud victim?
Social scientists warn consumers not to have an attitude of “I’m too smart to fall for a con.” You’re not! In an article on AARP’s website, a former con artist that had bilked millions from his victims said, “When I hear someone say that only stupid people fall for fraud, I feel like asking for that person’s phone number. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to talk to stupid people because stupid people don’t have $50,000 laying around to give me.” He went on, “The bottom line is, fraud is a crime that can happen to anyone, given the right con man and a victim with the right set of circumstances.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s mostly seniors who fall for scams. It’s millennials, not seniors, who are most vulnerable. According to the Federal Trade Commission, those in their 20s were the single largest group that reported losing money — 40 percent vs 18 percent for those 70 and older.
There are certain characteristics that distinguish those who get taken from those who don’t. According to research, having the following traits put you at a far higher risk of being scammed.
1. While millennials are scammed at a higher rate, seniors tend to lose larger amounts of money compared to young adults. Why? An MIT study found that older adults have higher levels of trust. A UCLA study showed that the older we get, there is less activation in the part of the brain that triggers wariness or “gut feelings,” which contributes to a greater vulnerability to fraud and scams. Research has also found that older adults are significantly worse in financial decision making than their younger counterparts, yet they still had faith in their financial abilities. The combination of their diminished “wariness” capacity and the decline of their financial capabilities puts older adults at a higher risk for financial fraud.
2. Some people are just more susceptible to persuasion than others. They just can’t seem to say “no.” Studies show people with this tendency respond more to con artists’ claims and statements, such as, “This offer is only good for the next 24 hours,” or “Investment earnings on this product are running at 30 percent per year.”
3. I’m sure you know of folks that are always entering contests and drawings and tell of giveaways and opportunities on Facebook or other social media. These type of contests, opportunities and come-ons are more than likely distributed by scam artists trying to get personal information of those who respond.
4. A common trait of scammed victims is they tend to fly more by the seat of their pants, taking fewer cautionary measures to minimize potential fraud. They tend not to think before making a buying decision, don’t do their due diligence to check out the offers and, interestingly, fewer of them signed up for registries that would limit unwanted phone calls.
5. Rough spots in someone’s life — a death, divorce, or maybe job loss — often leads to susceptibility of being scammed. Experts say if a loved one or friend has gone through a life low spot within the past two years, their odds of being scammed more than double. Dealing with difficult life circumstances often clouds a person’s ability to otherwise spots scams.
As you can see, conventional thinking about getting scammed is often wrong. Whether it’s on social media, over the phone or even a simple postal flyer, everyone has the potential to be a scam victim.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.