Scams are based not based on intelligence, but on EMOTION!

Decoding Scams: How emotional manipulation makes you a target

With every new advancement in technology, there are people looking for ways to use technology to convince you to give them your money. The most common tactic involves, not intelligence but, playing on your emotions. That’s according to Martin Bailey, Community Ambassador with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

Speaking at a recent Fort Belvoir Garrison Retiree Council meeting, Bailey cautioned that seniors are prime targets, and even someone as savvy as FBI and CIA Director William Webster was caught up in an online scam a decade ago.

Bailey said last year, an estimated $10 billion was lost in the United States due to online fraud.  Scams have now become more profitable than drug dealing, whether it is through romance scams, government imposters, or investment scams.

Romance Scams
Preying on a person’s feelings of isolation and loneliness, scammers can guide victims to believe they both have so much in common. Plans of flying out to meet, it is casually mentioned to the target that they pay the transportation costs. If money is sent, there will be a last-minute emergency preventing the trip, since the money is already pocketed.

Bailey said sometimes, the scammer will share their own account information with the victim, showing them a substantial balance, and propose an unusual favor.

“I'm going to open up a business, but I don't want my employer to know, or I don't want the government to know,’ Bailey said. “So do me a favor and open up a bank account and give me the account information,” explaining that the scammer is looking for ways to launder money. “If you do that, you’ve now become a ‘money mule,’ and that is a federal offense.

Government Imposter Scams
These scams try to frighten you, explaining that some federal agency requires your payment – right away – or very bad things are going to happen. If you are sufficiently unsettled and agree to pay, the red flag is that the scammer wants you to pay in cash or gift cards. Hang up immediately.

Tech Support Scams
While calmly browsing online, your screen suddenly erupts with shrill sounds and screen alerts that your computer is infected, along with a number to call to remedy this crisis. Despite onscreen assurances, that number is not to Microsoft or Dell support, but instead to the scammer who triggered the onscreen chaos. Restarting your computer and running a virus scanner will generally remove the annoyance.

Financial Scams
Bailey said a quickly growing scam relies on the urge for giant profits, along with the fear of missing out. After gaining your trust, a seemingly very wealthy person shares that you, too, can get in on this wealth-building plan. You are offered a website to make modest investments and watch as gravity-defying profits of 20 percent or more build in your ‘account.’ You’re even encouraged to withdraw some of the profits, helping you imagine what benefits await. Once you go all-in, depositing tens of thousands of dollars, the account, the ‘friend’ and your funds ...vanish, leaving you with little hope for recovery, since these operations are overseas.

With the advent of Artificial Intelligence and its ability to mimic voices, an emotional phone call from a grandchild asking for money should be confirmed by hanging up and calling the grandchild or their parents back to confirm before taking any actions.

Fort Belvoir’s Office of Staff Judge Advocate, Client Services Division, said it is important to keep emotions at bay when others are trying to manipulate you.

“Use caution when receiving contact from an entity that you don’t normally engage with.  If called, ask for their contact information, and let them know you will contact them.  Verify their information by conducting an independent search. 

"Also, note that government organizations such as the IRS will send a letter to your home address if there is a discrepancy and will never cold call the individual.”

Paul Lara, Public Affairs Specialist