Are you too smart to fall prey to a boiler room scam, or a ‘psychic’ fraudster who claims (for a fee) they can help you connect with a loved one from ‘the other side’? 15,000 other people weren’t…
Buying shares from a stranger who cold-calls you on the telephone is – let’s face it – not a terribly smart move.
But before you scoff, consider this: so far in 2010 15,000 people have reported such scams to Action Fraud – the consumer-facing arm of the National Fraud Authority.
Silly scams – anyone can be a victim
What’s more, psychic scams, loan scams and share sale scams were among the most common types of fraud reported last month. Also in the mix were romance and dating scams, auction fraud and ‘miracle medicine’ scams.
Perhaps you’ve just had to stifle a giggle. Why? Because most of us consider fraud a highly sophisticated crime, where secret personal details are pilfered or credit cards cleverly cloned. Whereas these scams just sound too stupid for anyone to fall for them.
Looking at Action Fraud’s figures, though, fraudsters don’t need to be criminal masterminds. The scammer’s most powerful weapon is his ability to win people’s confidence. And while we might like to think we’re too smart to fall for a fraudster, I wonder if it’s fair to be so smug?
The reality, in my opinion, is that the perpetrators of fraud prey on the vulnerable. They exploit people’s fears, hopes and anxieties in order to manipulate them into parting with their cash.
Fraud prevention – don’t stay silent
Here’s another sober thought to wipe the wry smile off anyone’s face – fraud costs Brits £3.5bn each year. And the crimes reported have seen individuals lose anything from £6 to £1m.
But, perhaps most importantly, let’s get past believing that falling for a scam is somehow the fault of the victim. Maybe people don’t always ask the right questions, or perhaps they’re too quick to believe there’s a way to get rich quick?
Either way, I don’t think that means they’re asking for trouble. It’s the fear of being seen as stupid that leads thousands of consumers not to report scams when they’re hit by them.
It’s this silence that allows scammers to keep toting their tricks. Maybe those of us who think we’re too clever to be conned should remember that.