The next time your phone rings, the caller may be trying to scare more than just you. They might be trying to scare your cash out of you. Fear and intimidation scams are psychological tactics thieves use to steal your money. Criminals are drawn to these types of scams, especially with senior adults, for a variety of reasons.
According to the American Association of Retired Persons (aarp.org), con artists have found that fear and intimidation scams are often more profitable, especially with people over 55. Fear and intimidation scams have different approaches, but both are geared towards one common aspect…human emotion.
What are fear scams?
These types of scams pull on the heart strings. They are intended to instill a feeling of sadness, grief, or heartache, and often are purported to involve a loved one.
What are intimidation scams?
These scams use official sounding and threatening words to scare you. By using intimidating words, victims are sometimes threatened with violence, a lawsuit, or possibly arrest.
What type of fear and intimidation scams are common?
Scammers follow the headlines and top news stories are prime influencers for criminals to develop their scams. At this time of year in 2020, between the stress of tax season and the heightened concern of the Coronavirus, signs of potential scams are emerging so it’s important to stay aware and educated.
Coronavirus Scams: The Federal Trade Commission has acknowledged that scammers are indeed reaching new lows by taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus. Be cautious of illicit correspondences requesting donations for charities or crowdfunding for victims’ families. Ignore offers for online vaccinations and instead check directly with your health care provider or pharmacy.
Tax Season Scams: Although the risk of financial fraud exists throughout the year, con artists seem to work overtime during tax season. The stress of filing taxes can distract us from our more typical cautious mindset. Plus, it would not seem unusual to receive a letter in the mail or an email “from the IRS” or from other tax-related services at this time of year, so consumers tend to be more trusting of the content within. Each year, the IRS publishes its “Dirty Dozen” list of the top 12 scams they encountered during the previous year which can alert you on what to look out for.
What can I do to protect myself and my money?
It’s an unfortunate fact that scammers often prey on people who are kind. Keep this is mind as you go throughout each day and seek out ways to make a difference without being taken advantage of.
- Stay educated. The first line of defense against these con artists is to educate yourself. Stay current with news reports of fraud and identity theft scams.
- Review your accounts regularly. Financial institutions will not ask you for specific account information in an email or online. Do not give away any personal financial information to these types of solicitations and watch for unusual account activity. It’s a good idea to immediately report any suspicious transactions to your financial institution and get a yearly credit review.
- Utilize an account monitoring service. Many financial institutions, like Diamond Credit Union, provide low- or no-cost account monitoring services such as CyberScout.
Bottom line is to think before acting. Eric Russell, Fraud Analyst at Diamond Credit Union adds, “if something doesn’t feel or sound right it probably isn’t. You can always hang up the phone and dial the trusted number you have to confirm the original call was legitimate. The criminals want you to take swift action before you have time to think. Slow down and make sure you are confident with the person and/or company you are speaking with.”