Fraud and Aging
We have all had them. The telephone call in the middle of the dinner hour, offering anything from aluminum siding to “credit repair” or bank account “insurance”. Despite the No Call Registry, caller ID and more robust mechanisms for defeating them, it appears that telephone solicitors manage to find their way into our homes. One difference is that now their offers are more usually coached in terms of a “survey”.
There are frequent articles that suggest that the older population is more vulnerable to fraud, via telephone or online. The reasons offered: that there is diminished “thinking”; or sheer loneliness (elderly are more likely to continue a conversation, just to hear a friendly voice). Perhaps they are not as wary of the technology of the internet as they should be? Then there is the idea that the elderly become a bit naïve or are not as aware of the possibilities of what a scammer can accomplish with just a bit of additional information (such as date of birth or the name of our bank).
According to the recent “Squared Away” blog (Jan. 15, 2015, The Psychology of Fraud) “With the baby boom population aging at the same time that the Internet has become a haven for hackers, scammers, and invasions of privacy, experts predict that the incidence of online and other fraud against the elderly will continue to increase in coming years.” That is indeed, a dire prediction.
The reality is even worse, in my opinion. ANYONE, regardless of age, can be tricked by a scam “artist”. In some cases, a financial scam is unwittingly “passed along” by a friend or family member who actually believes the new venture or get- rich idea is the real thing. Often highly educated, wealthy individuals do not want to report the incident (loss of substantial money) because of embarrassment or the “stigma” attached that they could actually be fooled. Thus, the perpetrator is allowed to continue their schemes.
In the Squared Away article, there is data offered by Anthony Pratkanis, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
“Pratkanis explains four psychological strategies that con artists use to lure people into surrendering their money:
- Phantom fixation: a fixation on a sudden windfall.
- Social proof: if other people are doing it, it must be good.
- Authority: the person selling the purported money-making venture is highly knowledgeable.
- Scarcity: there is limited time to snare this one-time offer.”
Apparently these four strategies are powerful enough to work their way into the most wary psyche.
There is also an AARP Fraud Watch Network (www.aarp.org Money/Consumer Protection/Fraud Watch) where you can access numerous videos and articles about fraud prevention. The site offers free access and all the short videos are worth watching.
I repeat – ANYONE can become a victim of fraud or a scam. Are there steps you can take to protect yourself? Here are a few steps to consider –
STOP – if it is a friend or a family member, you may have to listen to them, but you DO NOT have to make a decision or commitment to contribute money to “the big deal”.
CONSIDER – do you really want to go an “informational” meeting or make a telephone call to get “more information” about the new, great venture? Will you possibly be coerced into writing a check at the “information” meeting? (Leave your checkbook and credit cards at home!)
DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING – Seek unbiased professional help to review any document you are asked to sign.
RESEARCH – If the ‘big deal’ is that great, there should be some published information about its legitimate success. I mean other than the lovely brochure or grand website – these are ‘biased’. Or have you been warned that the ‘big deal’ is just too good and must be kept a secret? Then, alarm bells should be going off in your head! Again, seek professional help to get real answers to pertinent questions BEFORE you commit.
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