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Anatomy of a scam

Over the years, I have written numerous articles on the various scams and frauds that are reported to us, along with some helpful tips to avoid becoming a victim. Just this past week, I received a letter from a potential victim, who was not only smart enough to not be taken in, but actually took the time to transcribe the conversation. I thought this was a great bit of information, and I want to use this as an opportunity to discuss “The Anatomy of a Scam”

        

While the scam I will walk you through is what we would call “The Grandchild Scam”, most if not all scams follow the same methodology. The scam actually begins before the call is even answered in that the perpetrators are now using a method called “Cloning” to attach their call to a familiar number. Gone are the days when these calls would come in as “Unknown” or “Unlisted”. They realized that people were catching on to this, so they adapted. This provides a sense of legitimacy as the number may have a familiar area code or even the entire number. Also, as part of establishing legitimacy, they may or may not state a name. If they state a name, they most likely have done some research and actually have the correct name. This is where social media can be problematic. Be careful what you post. In other cases, they will just state “This is your Gandson/ Granddaughter”. Too often the potential victims will then give the name in an attempt to confirm.

        

The first step in any scam is to elevate the potential victim’s sense of emotion. In this case the caller stated “Grandma, I broke my leg in a car accident”. The general tactic here is that the greater the level of emotion, the lower the level of logic. This same approach is used when the caller states they from a law enforcement agency, the IRS, or in a positive way, a lottery representative with news of a big win. In all cases, elevating the potential victim’s emotional state is the goal.

        

The next step is isolation. The perpetrators know that if their potential victim, shares the story and request for money, those people will not have the same elevated emotion, and will view the entire situation with logic, thus drastically limiting the potential success of their scam. In this scam, the caller stated that she was in jail, as the other driver was pregnant (Not sure why that has any relevancy, but again, they are looking to keep the emotion elevated). She then goes on to state that she needs money for bail, but she asks that the potential victim not tell anyone as it could affect her job. For someone in a state of heightened emotion, this all may make perfect sense.

        

The final part is the actual transaction details. In this call, the perpetrator states that they will pick up the money. This of course should bring with it numerous safety concerns. Many times, this original plan, is shifted to having the potential victim either go to a bank to initiate a wire transfer, or a trip to a Walmart to purchase money cards, which will allow the transaction to take place more conveniently for the victim. In this case, the potential victim, was smart enough to see through it, and terminated the call.

        

It is important that when you do receive any call of such a nature, to end the call as soon as possible. The longer you stay on that call, the greater the chance that the caller will draw you into their story. I call this the difference between a “Hard Target” and a “Soft Target”. If the caller senses hesitation or an inclination in believing the story, they will turn up the pressure, or even call again. If you display a solid no-nonsense approach which is decisive and conclusive, they will most likely move on to someone else, who will be that “Soft Target” they are looking for.

         

I want to thank the wonderful community member who shared their story with me, so that I could share it with you. This is our greatest defense against such scams; our willingness to share stories. Even if you have actually been victimized by such scams, share that story. It may prevent future victimization.

  

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