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19 Apr 2017
Debunking three myths on fraud victims

Victims of fraud often encounter incomprehension on the part of their friends and family. In addition to losing money, they often have to face prejudice and misunderstanding.

Many people are quick to make judgements and one of those judgements is that you must be very stupid to fall for scams. Read more about the three strongest common myths and why they are incorrect:

1. All fraud victims are stupid

Photo © Jose Luis Canales/Flickr.comCC BY-NC 2.0.

Many fraud victims are laughed about; they are called stupid because they failed to recognize a scammer’s trick. People who think this way often add that they would “never ever have fallen for such a scam.”

This is not true; victims who report to Fraud Help Desk come from all walks of life. Many are highly educated and / or lead a successful company. They have sufficient brains and are definitely not stupid.

Moreover, many victims don’t understand how on earth they let themselves be fooled. Yet it did happen to them. This is partly because fraudsters are very good at appealing to a victim’s emotions, blocking any rational decision. Often they do this by making their victims so scared that they can no longer think clearly and are rushed into a decision. For example, the scammers may threaten seizure of a company on the telephone, prompting the victim to transfer a large amount of money. They may also make their victims emotionally dependent, as in dating fraud.

Almost everyone has a weakness. Scammers know how to find this weakness like no other.

2. All fraud victims are greedy

Photo © Elizabeth Brossa/Flickr.comCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Victims of fraud are often seen as The Very Hungry Caterpillar in the classic children’s book; they never have enough. They are very, very greedy. And so, they only have themselves to blame when they fall for a scam; it’s their own fault.

This perception is incorrect; scammers may offer their victims something attractive they would very much like to possess, but that doesn’t make them greedy.

Potential scam victims are often lured to fake web shops offering exclusive bags or other fashionable articles at rock-bottom prices.  Holidaymakers may spot gorgeous and affordable tourist accommodation in a coastal area and immediately pay a deposit, only to find out later that the money has gone to a scammer, not a local landlord.

Is this greed? Not really. People who think it is may underestimate how clever swindlers’ tricks can be.  These con artists are expert at making their prey act on impulse. They do this by bringing in time pressure: “Act now, don’t let this unique opportunity pass!”

Another tactic involves isolating victims. For example, the scammers may tell an investment fraud victim to keep mum and not talk to other people about the so-called one-off opportunity on offer. This way, the scammers deviously reduce the chance that their victims will change their minds after talking to others.

In addition, scammers often establish a bond of trust with their victims. Cases involving CEO-impersonation fraud are sometimes preceded by weeks of communication between scammers and admin staff before the latter pay the money requested. After a while, the victims are simply no longer on their guard.

3. All fraud victims have lost track of reality

Photo © Klaus Stiefel/Flickr.comCC BY-NC 2.0

“Come on, under which rock have you been living? – it’s a taunting question many scam victims face. “You must be really out of step if you fall for an email phishing scam.”

This is incorrect; research shows that anyone of us can become a victim of fraud. Even a computer security expert can fall for a scam. The con artists only need to know two things:

  • What kind of email messages their target is used to receiving. The scammers can copy those messages and make them look authentic.
  • Where their target’s personal interests lie.

For example, a member of a company’s HR department may receive dozens of CVs attached to email applications each day. This person may, in a moment of distraction, click on a fake document titled cv.pdf. This is not strange at all; in fact, it’s more than likely.

The key is: never underestimate con artists. Be aware of what tactics they may use and always remain vigilant. This will limit the risk of you falling victim to scams also having to fight these prejudices.