Skip to content

Spot Fraud Before It Gets to You

10 warning signs that you are about to be scammed

Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Outsmarting the Scam Artists: How to Protect Yourself From the Most Clever Cons by Doug Shadel (c) 2012 by AARP

Social scientists have conducted experiments over many years that show if you can see a request coming from a distance, you are better able to control how you respond to it. The same is true for resisting a fraud attempt. The better you are at identifying a fraud attempt from a distance, the more success you will have resisting it. The following warning signs may help you see fraud coming.

See also: Doug Shadel talks on Prime Time Radio about scams.

1. Hyping the offer. The caller or salesperson enthusiastically describes how much money you will make and what you might do with it, in an attempt to get you excited so you will make a quick buying decision.

2. Asking lots of personal questions. The scammer is asking you lots of question about your personal life: How many kids and grandkids do you have? Where do you work? How long have you lived where you live? This is done to build rapport and to profile you so he or she can customize the pitch.

3. Telling you that you’ve won a prize — but must pay to receive it. The scammer may say that you have won a million dollars, but you must first pay administrative fees or taxes before you can receive it. It is illegal for a sweepstakes offer to ask for payment.

4. Warning you that if you don’t pay right away, you’ll lose the deal. Often scam artists will create urgency by telling you the offer will expire soon.

5. Failing to tell you where your donations will go. The scammer refuses to tell you how much of the donation goes to the actual charity versus to the person calling. Legitimate charities are required to tell you this if you ask.

6. Telling you the offer is secret. The con artist tells you that the offer is top secret and you shouldn’t tell anyone about it. This is intended to keep the authorities and possibly wiser family members away.

7. Providing no written information. Scammers want to keep you from making an informed decision so will often claim there’s no time to send written material.

8. Using fear. Scammers will tell you the economy is collapsing and so you should buy gold, or crime is on the rise so you should buy a security system. Fear is a great motivator ....

9. Getting a foot in the door. The seller offers free gifts such as a CD or DVD in return for your willingness to sit through a presentation or buy a product.

10. Using bait and switch. A sale item is suddenly sold out, but a much better item is available for more money.

related video

See all videos »

Meet Jay Weaver, an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald, and an expert in the area of Medicare fraud. Watch.