Milwaukee, Wis. – Much is known about the personalities of con artists and their methods, however, the Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin says consumers with certain character trains and behaviors may be more prone than others to becoming a victim.
Young people – from adolescents to college students – are potential victims because although they may understand the workings of sophisticated scams, they often do not take the necessary precautions to protect themselves, particularly when using computers and smart phones. They also may share too much information on social media sites.
It is also well-established that the elderly are prime targets for fraud because they may be too trusting and may not understand some of the ways scammers can trick them into handing over personal and financial information.
But age alone does not determine who will most likely become a victim. The other two determining factors are personal values and behavior.
Here are some of the traits common among scam victims:
They take someone at their word – Victims tend to not do their homework, ask questions, or check with BBB before signing a contract or putting down a deposit.
They are afraid of being rude – They don’t want to hang up the phone or shut the door, even if they are not interested in whatever the peddler is selling.
They don’t recognize common high pressure tactics – These include persuasion, “time-limited” offers, calls to action to “do it now” or pestering over the telephone or at the front door.
They don’t protect their personal information – They don’t lock up or shred their documents. They use the same password for every account.
They let themselves get emotional – They are often motivated by fear, greed, romance, a sense of urgency, or excitement. They are easily moved to respond to threatening phone calls or emails, fake charities, lotteries, and investment scams.
They don’t read the fine print – Some individuals and websites are hoping that consumers don’t find or read fine print, which may contain restrictions that put them at a disadvantage or make a product or service all but useless.
They act impulsively – They download files, click on pop-up ads, sign up for trial offers, click on links and open emails from unknown senders.
They are vulnerable – They may have recently lost their job or have increased debt and therefore place hope in work-at-home offers and phony employment offers through which they can lost money or be coerced into giving up personal information that will be used for identity theft.
They are embarrassed – They won’t tell anyone about being scammed nor report it to the proper authorities, so that the perpetrator gets away and the scam continues.
Criminals who commit these kinds of fraud are typically very polite, will lavish praise upon their victims, use a convincing pitch or hard luck story, or falsely claim they are affiliated with the government, police, or even the Better Business Bureau.
Knowledge is the ultimate tool to prevent becoming the victim of a scam:
Take preventative measures. Add your home telephone number to the state and federal Do Not Call registries (www.donotcall.gov or 1-888-382-1222; FTC and nocallwisconsin.gov or 1-866-966-2255 for Wisconsin). This is no guarantee that unscrupulous telemarketers won’t call, but it can dramatically reduce the number of solicitations. If you do register, and they do call, you can report the violation.
Be skeptical. Err on the side of caution when anybody calls or emails asking for your personal or financial information. No legitimate caller will ask for credit card numbers, your Social Security number, date of birth or any other personal information.
Be realistic. You cannot win a lottery you did not enter (and, foreign lotteries are illegal), never pay for anything that is offered as “free,” and just because you’re told about a great investment opportunity, don’t make any quick decision. Seek expert advice and check on the company or individual first. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Twitter, Facebook and You Tube.