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How Not to Become a Scam Victim

Updated on September 12, 2013
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There have always been people without a sense of morality, who would like to enrich themselves using fraudulent means. To cheat their neighbor seems far easier than to earn the money through hard work, learning and sacrifice. I hope you, my dear reader, do not belong to this hideous category of people and the only reason you bother yourself to read this article is your desire to defend yourself from the dishonest.

Like any other human being on this planet, you have some life goals and priorities. Fuelling the pockets of thieves probably does not belong to your plans. You have better ideas on how to spend your hard - earned money.

You must know that fraudsters may seem very inventive, but in fact they are not. The methods they use are just different variants of several basic scamming tactics. These are based on appealing to certain needs or feelings of the victim and exploiting them in their own way.

These methods have been known for ages and all of them are based on common and obvious psychological knowledge possessed even by people of simple mind. As soon as you discover the tactics of scammers, you will not be vulnerable to their criminal schemes.


Here are some basics you need to know:


1. There is only one Santa Claus who lives somewhere far in the north and he operates only once in the year

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The scammer will promise you fast and easy enrichment.

A large money transfer from Nigeria with 30% for you just for a little assistance?

A testament stating that you have just inherited one million bucks?

An easy lottery win?

How about some gambling?

Yep, it always sounds tempting. Everyone would like to become rich. If the criminal manages to awaken such hope in the victim's mind, it may be hard to persuade the person not to take further steps leading him to getting robbed. Probably more than 90% of the popular Nigerian fraud schemes are based on some form of promise of fast enrichment. But that's not the only way deceitful people act in order to take advantage of our greed. Have you never received an e-mail or an sms containing an information that you're a winner in a lottery you hadn't even heard of before? That's their way to make you send expensive sms messages or in any other way start making stupid decisions from which they will benefit. No matter if it's a Nigerian fraud or a lottery scheme - later on you will quickly learn about new expenses, "requirements" and "procedures" to receive your long awaited prize. The scammer will make you pay more and more, exploiting your fear of missing a lifetime opportunity. One thing can be sure of - you will never see the prize.

In order not to fall in this trap you must learn some simple truths about life. There is no easy money and there is no Santa Claus waiting to flood you with his gifts. If some entity previously unknown to you pretends to be the latter, you can be sure that there's already a thief's hand reaching for your wallet. Good business opportunities, possible ways of enriching yourself fast, chances not to be wasted - such things happen. But not really that often as naive people could believe. Below I would like to present three episodes of Singaporean series "Crimewatch" showing examples of criminal fraud based on exploiting the victim's hope of enrichment.




2. Everyone can claim to be a member of a state authority. Not everyone actually is.

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The scammer may want you to think he is a representative of a state authority. We all know that state authorities are entitled to impose different taxes, punish different actions and it is better to obey them. Isn't it then a good business to become a state official? Especially if all the "fines" and "fees", instead of funding the state budget end up in your pockets? The answer is clear for those scammers who decide to impersonate different state officials and extract some money out of an ignorant victim.

The most primitive and widely known scheme includes the scammer impersonating a traffic cop and imposing "fines" on unaware drivers. But this is only one example of the creativity a scammer may utter while fulfilling his childhood dreams of bearing state power, as well as the most recent dream to acquire your money.

For example, foreign workers, not aware of local regulations may fall victim to bogus "immigration authorities" imposing "fines" for imagined "immigration offences". There was a case in Poland when a private company released advertisement placards inviting old people to take part in their financial scheme. The form and language of the placard messages were formulated in a manner which made them easy to be confused with a state authority announcement. The company was fined by the Polish Customers Rights Authority (UOKiK) for use of confusing advertisement.

To avoid becoming a victim of such scam, we must be aware of some basic procedures used by the authorities of the country we currently reside in. There is no single civilized country (and probably rarely an uncivilized one) in which any authority would talk with you about your financial obligations by simply calling you and giving you an account number. As for the police and other law enforcement officers, they should usually carry distinctive marks prescribed by law.

The offenders specialized in this category of scams take advantage of our natural trust in authorities. They will often try to emulate specific manners of speaking about the matter and other behaviors typical of state officials. They will also try to authenticate themselves by showing that they know your name or any other personal data known to state authorities, although the knowledge was obtained from other sources, often illegal.

In the video below we can see an example of an Immigration Authority fraud.




3. Mercy is a virtue of good people. But the bad people also have their plan.

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Pretending to be someone in need in order to extract money from people is disgusting. Not only is it an example of atrocious use of good human instincts for illegitimate gain, but it also may cause those who actually are in need to suffer undeserved distrust. Even if the victim of the scammer suspects something fishy, there would still be this fear of refusing to help someone in need.

But what if it's not a scammer?

There are cases of whole gangs specializing themselves in sending mothers with children to beg on the streets, only to spend the acquired money on alcohol and drugs.

How to defend yourself from such situations? If you feel you live in a country where the authorities do not efficiently prosecute and punish fraudulent begging, simply refrain from giving money to unknown people on the street. You can give it instead to specialized religious or secular charity organizations and always remain able to direct a person claiming to be in need to such an organization.

Below we can see a Bosnian miracle worker. You see, there was a war in Bosnia and the country is still full of land mines. The Bosnian miracle worker will even bring his missing legs back.

Or was it just an unsuccessful mercy scam?


4. Many people talk about God. Not all of them fear God.

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A scammer reaching for your wallet doesn't want his dirty hand to be caught. Therefore he will try to turn off your security systems. One of the ways is to make religion involved. Did you ever bother yourself to read all those Nigerian scam letters? Probably the Pope himself doesn't utter so many blessings a day as a Nigerian mail scammer does.

This particular tactic is rarely used alone, not counting prominent cult leaders making huge money on their fanatical worshipers. Usually this tactic accompanies same other tactics and serves as a softener of the victim.

Can a person uttering blessings be dishonest? Yes he can.



5. Love is blind, as they say. Wait a minute. Where's my wallet?

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Almost all of us dream to give ourselves totally to someone special. A love scammer may understand the word "give" very literally. I sincerely believe that the brown thingie you flush everyday in your toilet has more dignity than those who commit the crime of fraud this way.

The victim may be a woman in her 30's or older who is having problems with contacts with men, but somewhere deep inside her heart, she is dreaming of love. Or a man somehow sharing such characteristics. They meet each other on the Internet. The scammer waits his time in order not to alert the victim prematurely. The victim falls deeper and deeper in love. And then the moment comes. A reason pops out. A reason to ask her / him to withdraw a significant sum of money from the account or make a bank transfer. Does the victim have any reason? Let's try to understand the mind of a desperate person. It just can't be a scammer. Even if all the available evidence proves otherwise.

Scammers who run this kind of criminal business are particularly active on the Internet. What should one do in order to avoid becoming a victim? Use video streaming (e.g. Skype) while talking with the person. Don't transfer money. If anything smells fishy, try to gently verify the knowledge of your internet relationship partner about the country he or she claims to live in. Seek advice from people knowing this particular country and in case of doubts, seek to clarify them with your partner. Talk about each others' childhood and check if the story looks consistent. Be gentle. I strongly believe that most of people dating on the Internet are acting in good faith and looking for a lasting relationship. Be vigilant, not paranoid.

Below we can see another episode of Crimewatch. This poor Asian lady was hoping to find love in London. The diplomat from London turned out to be a scammer from Nigeria.




6. Fear has huge, round eyes. They also know it.

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We fear four our loved ones. We fear for our lives. We fear for our health. And we fear for our money. The last fear is the weakest of those four. And the scammer knows it. He will exploit it if you let him. The most popular of fear-based scams is the kidnap scam. The scammer will call the victims phone and ask for an immediate money transfer, or else he will kill the victims relative or loved one he claims to have kidnapped. The Police usually advises to stay calm, not transfer any money and check if the person claimed by the scammer to be kidnapped is safe.




7. Sex. When lust wakes up, reason goes to sleep.

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This is obvious and there is not much to explain. Yet, for ages people have been falling in this trap, as if experiences acquired by generations could never prevent people from repeating errors of their fathers.

Lust may not be the most demonic of human vices, but surely it is the strongest. And it often makes people do things, they will surely later regret. Like those young people shown on the videos below.

Greed, trust, mercy, religion, love, fear, lust.

All those passions can make us blind. And the thief wants us to be blind. Nihil novi sub sole, as the prophet once said.

Being vigilant is one of the conditions of a happy life. Better to be safe than sorry. Being vigilant doesn't signify being paranoid. The sole fact that we feel certain emotions while interacting with a person doesn't have to mean that he's a scammer. Perhaps usually it doesn't. It is up to us to develop a sense of reason and a grown-up personal intuition to enable us to act the right way.

There will always be, however, such people between us, who are unable to defend themselves. It's up to the state to defend those weaker and less intelligent. As citizens, we have the right to demand harsh punishments for those who act deceitful.

If you are a victim of a scam, do not hesitate to file a police report. This way you can help the authorities arrest, prosecute and punish the fraudster. There is also a chance that you will have your money back. Don't feel ashamed because you have become a victim. You just needed to learn a lesson. The policeman you are just about to approach has seen much more than you can even imagine. No reason to feel ashamed.

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