The COVID-19 pandemic has created the perfect storm for scam artists to schmooze their way into your pockets. “People are more vulnerable emotionally than ever,” says psychologist Stacey Wood, a professor at Scripps College in California. “That makes it easier to fall for the increasing number of scams out there.”
According to AARP’s Fraud Watch Network, criminals are preying on this new vulnerability with everything from fake work-at-home jobs and fraudulent charities to money-seeking romance schemers lurking on dating sites. Other scammers include government impostors who are targeting your stimulus check. How do they do it? Here are six psychological tactics scammers don’t want you to know about.
A friendly voice
Isolation in older adults is a common occurrence that has been amplified by the Coronavirus. “When you’re lonely, a friendly voice on the phone or a friendly message on social media seems like a real bright spot,” says Emily Allen, senior vice president for programs at AARP Foundation. Using information gained about you online, a scammer will draw on false commonalities to create the impression of bonded experiences. The more likable someone is, the easier it will be to believe their lies.
“In uncertain times, we rely more than ever on what other people tell us. Scammers may falsely identify themselves as being from the IRS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” says Robert Cialdini, regents emeritus professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University. “They misquote or make up advice from experts. And they create fake organizations that sound impressive, to fool you.”
Using your intelligence against you
“Some people get drawn in when scammers compliment their intelligence and ability to understand a so-called opportunity,” Cialdini says. “Others think they’re smarter than a scammer and can spot a phony. Research shows that, among older adults, those who think they’re the most invulnerable to persuasion are most likely to fall for scam artists.”
Helping in hard times
As our community, country and world go through this difficult time, scammers are using emotional appeal to help themselves to your bank account. Hardship stories they may have seemed outlandish several months ago, now hold echoes of truth. Be wary of sympathy traps. Instead, give back through trusted organizations like community food panties or other licensed non-profit organizations.
Relieving your new anxieties
Be on the lookout for offers that seem to-good-to-be-true. Scammers are using bogus bargains to sell you fake face masks, at-home Coronavirus testing, even “cures.” Online retail mogul, Amazon, reportedly acted as a liaison between sellers and consumers that resulted in $350,000 of counterfeit N95 masks. Don’t be fooled, and double check the source.
What is EdenHill doing to protect against fraud?
At EdenHill, when we hear a report, we verify it or debunk it! Recently, we needed to validate the accuracy of the MetaBank debit card being mailed for stimulus payments. After verifying the information against the IRS news release, notices were posted to inform our community.