01 Oct Holiday Hoaxes: PSYCHOLOGICAL TRICKS FRAUDSTERS USE TO RIP-US-OFF!
Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD
is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook . For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or email@example.com.
“Holiday Hoaxes: PSYCHOLOGICAL TRICKS FRAUDSTERS USE TO RIP-US-OFF!”
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams℠ Acting Program
Welcome to October 2020! Traditionally, this is the time of year for carved out pumpkins on doorsteps and kids dressed up in costumes going door-to-door for “tricks or treats” on Halloween. Given that we are still in the midst of a world-wide pandemic, however, it’s unlikely that Halloween will be celebrated this year in a “business as usual” sort of way. But what will be “business as usual” during the Halloween kick-off of the 2020 holiday season is FRAUD. You can count on that. Halloween is considered by many to be the “spooky start to online fraud season.” (1) Sadly, the holiday season brings with it an increase in fraudulent activity. For example, ACI Worldwide benchmark data revealed that online fraud attempts increased 22% during the holiday shopping season of 2017. (2) There’s no reason to believe that 2020 will be any different. So, let’s prepare ourselves. Let’s take a look at what tools – tricks of psychological manipulation – the con artists use to try and separate us from our hard-earned cash and our wellbeing. Consulting “SCAM ME IF YOU CAN: Simple Strategies to Outsmart Today’s Rip-Off Artists” by Frank W. Abagnale (author of #1 New York Times bestseller “CATCH ME IF YOU CAN”) is a good place to start. What better authority can you have than a reformed con artist who’s been there and done that? He knows well the psychological manipulation tricks of the trade. Below are some highlights from what Mr. Abagnale has to say about the predatory techniques used by fraudsters.
UNDER THE ETHER
First and foremost, the fraudster’s goal is to get the target “under the ether.” What this means is that the scammer needs to create an atmosphere of trust, and perhaps even infatuation, in order to draw in victims when presenting their fraudulent sales pitches. Once the target is under the hypnotic-like spell of the “ether,” it makes it hard for her / him to think rationally or make sensible decisions. “[A] good con should always try to keep the victim in the altitude of the ether, because once they drop into the valley of logic, [you’ve] lost them.” (3) How do scammers induce this false state of security? First, by talking seductively — nice and sweet, comforting, calm, confident, reassuring. They ask questions that are designed to trigger a heightened emotional response. They get you to open up and share personal info with them. And then, once you’re hooked, they pounce on your panic buttons!
PANIC “BUTTONS” – SCARCITY, URGENCY, FLATTERY
Most scammers use a combination of scarcity, urgency, and flattery to lure you into their phony schemes. For example, they say the deal they’re offering is available for a limited time only; or “If you don’t act now, you’ll lose out.” “A smart person like yourself should jump at this once in a lifetime opportunity!” All these tactics are designed to pressure you into acting quickly, against your better judgement. If you were not under the ether, you would stop and think before you act.
FEAR, INTIMIDATION, AGGRESSION
If the con artist has tried to get you under the spell of the ether and jumped on your panic buttons, but you still aren’t falling for the fraudulent scheme, things often escalate. He will use more aggressive means to try make you fall in line. It’s not unheard of for scammers to make threatening, abusive phone calls to try and force their victims into buying their fraudulent products / services.
OUR BEST DEFENSE
In short, scammers try to seduce us into buying their lies. Lies, after all, is what they are selling. In order to do this, they play upon our fears and cater to our dreams, fantasies and illusions. What is our best line of defense against the onslaught of scammer lies? The short answer to that question is “Self-Knowledge.” That, of course, is a life-long journey. But we can begin now, today, by learning to practice discernment. Be true to yourself. Honor yourself. Pay attention to that still small voice inside you. Remember — If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
WHERE TO REPORT SCAMS
If you receive a suspicious call, just hang up and call the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-0470. You may also report scams to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1. If you have questions about Medicare fraud / abuse or believe you have been the victim of Medicare fraud, please contact the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-855-613-7080. For more info regarding California SMP, go to www.cahealthadvocates.org. Contact the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office online at http://da.lacounty.gov// or phone (213) 974-3512.
- “SCAM ME IF YOU CAN,” Frank W. Abagnale, copyright 2019 by AARP, pg. 36.
STOP SENIOR SCAMS℠ ACTING PROGRAM is on YOUTUBE!
Although the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in-person performances are on hold during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, we are committed to continuing our education program through our videos on Zoom.
- SSSAP will release another zoom video on scams that target seniors in early October. Be on the lookout for it!
- We are happy to announce our most recent video, released mid-August, which is an overview of some of the most prevalent scams that target seniors in the United States. Watch “The Top Senior Scams with the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program” here —https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp097g7hTUg&t=13s
- Watch “Meet Me At The Veterans Club,” released mid-July, which focuses on scams that target veterans. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf6wXO4pY3I&t=17s
- In early June, we released “Stop Senior Scams Acting Program and Medicare Telehealth Fraud.” Watch it here — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVlvmPwAa3I&t=40s
Please subscribe (free of charge) to the SSSAP YouTube Channel and you’ll be notified when new videos are released! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjFjb-WPPr8KAXq1dlu1EvA Together we can combat fraud!
Remember: You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD, is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. SAVE THE DATE – On November 8th, SSSAP will be participating in the “Virtual Westside Safety and Preparedness Fair.” More details to follow in the November 2020 issue of NBY! For more information, please contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSAP2016/?fref=ts. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.