I’ve always been interested in the darker side of a person’s personality, particularly deviant behaviour. I want to know why someone might stray from the straight and narrow. So I often watch programmes about scam artists and their victims. And I think to myself, how did they fall for their tricks? Do they use specific tools to manipulate a person? Do they have to have particular character traits to pull off a scam? Is there a perfect victim? Well, all of the above is true. But before we examine the signs of a scam artist, let’s look at the type of person they target.
The Perfect Time for Scam Artists
Unfortunately, anyone can fall victim to a scam artist. We are all incredibly busy these days. We don’t have the time to scrutinise every email or text or phone call. Furthermore, scam artists are targeting us from every conceivable angle.
Decades ago, a con-artist would have to be confident and articulate. They would have to have face-to-face communication skills to convince someone to part with their cash. In fact, we get the term con-man from ‘confidence-man’. But things have changed massively.
These days, we talk to people who are thousands of miles away without even seeing them. Likewise, there are many different forms of communication. And that’s a major difference for our time.
In the past, a con-man would have to face his victim. He (or she) would see, up close and personal, the damage done as a result of their con. Now, scammers are people sat far away, in their tracksuits, targeting anonymous people who they have no emotional connection to at all.
As a result, anyone and everyone are under constant attack. If our wits are down our defences are wide open.
So who is a perfect victim for a scam artist?
Scam artists will look for a certain victim-type, depending on the scam they want to pull off. It is important to remember that a victim of a scam is not stupid. This is because scammers play to our emotions, not our intelligence. So, anyone who is in a vulnerable state is, particularly at risk.
For example, a person who has recently lost their job, a partner, a child. Someone who is going through a major life upheaval. But also positive things can make you vulnerable. For instance, a run of extremely good luck can skew your judgment.
Successful scams all hinge on desire over rationality. Victims of scams often don’t want to know a lot of details about the scam. They just need to know the outcome. In other words, will they be better off?
“Victims don’t look for why the offer is a scam; they look for why the offer will make them money. They want you to make them feel good so they can pull the trigger.” Anonymous scammer
9 Signs of a Scam Artist and Their Manipulation Tools
They use your name
Using a person’s first name is a powerful way to emotionally connect with someone. It instantly creates a bond between two people. You feel special, as if you are important to that person, particularly if it is your first meeting.
They mirror your body language
This is a classic manipulation tool that scammers use. By copying your body language, the scam artist is subconsciously forming an attachment with you. You feel attracted to them but you are not sure why.
‘We’re in this together’
‘We’re in this together.’ ‘You and I are going to be rich.’ ‘We’re gonna make a lot of money.’ Firstly, why would someone want to share their wealth with you? Particularly if you are a stranger to them?
Human beings tend to want to hoard their wealth so be very wary if a complete stranger wants to include you in a money-making scheme. Secondly, you’ll feel more like a team and less like you are alone in any risk-taking activity.
But there’s always a time limit
You often see unscrupulous salespeople do this in order to close a deal. There’s this fantastic offer on hand, but, you have to sign on the dotted line within an hour or the deal is gone. This tactic plays on the FOMO effect. We don’t want to miss out on a great deal. Listen, no deal is that good it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and time spent away reflecting on it.
You’ll win a little at first
To get you to sign up to whatever scam is going, you will win a small amount of money in the short-term. This is done to build your confidence. It is also done to lock you into a situation. Now you are tied into a scheme. You are invested, literally and figuratively. You have a psychological need to continue. Of course, it won’t last.
Scam artists are good listeners
You might think that the majority of scammers are skilled in communication, but having good listening skills is equally important. The reason they listen a lot is that they need to know what will seal the deal for you and what a deal breaker is.
They’ll show their imperfections
Studies show that we trust a person that is not perfect. In the beginning, a scam artist will let you in on a little flaw of theirs that shows their imperfections. Of course, it won’t be a massive thing to put you off. I mean, they won’t confide that they are a psychopath who has just killed their mother. It will be just small enough to earn your trust.
Scammers start off small
Romance con-artists tend to ask for small amounts of money which then get bigger and bigger over time. The reasons can vary from paying off small debts to helping stop bankruptcy. Although the amounts may begin under 100 pounds or dollars, the victim can end up giving away their life-savings of over hundreds of thousands.
A scam artist will count on your embarrassment
Why do so many scams go unpunished or unprosecuted? Because the victim feels so embarrassed about being conned. And this is what the scammer is depending on. We often see elderly victims of scams refusing to come forward because they feel so ashamed about being scammed.
With so many scam artists out there, it is important to keep our wits about us. Probably the most important advice is that if a deal seems too good to be true, it is.
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