Safety and Protection

How Scammers Use Emotions Against You and How to Avoid It

Erin Palmer

October 09, 2017

How Scammers Use Emotions Against You and How to Avoid It

Republished April 23, 2019

Scams are vicious. It can wreak havoc on your life when a scam causes you to lose money. But there is another thing that scams can hurt other than your wallet. And that is your feelings.

It can be a blow to your pride to fall for a scam. Scammers often use your emotions against you to get you to fall for a scam. So when the scam is over, the feelings of vulnerability and distress may remain.

Scams That Use Love Against You

Love is the most wonderful feeling in the world. That’s what makes it such a powerful weapon when scammers use it against you.

Romance scams are on the rise, according to the FBI. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reports thousands of romantic scams a year. Millions of dollars are stolen each year as a result of romantic scams.

Here’s a basic example of how romantic scams may work. Scammers look for potential targets on dating websites or social media and create a fake persona that would appeal to the potential target. For example, if the target is religious, the scammer may pretend to have the same values.

The scammer uses any tactic possible to build trust. Scammers will often be very attentive, loving and readily available to chat online or over the phone. If you are going through a difficult time, the scammer could be there to talk you through it.

Once the scammer has built some trust and expressed strong emotion to the target, there will be some sort of financial request disguised as a need.

The scammer may claim to need an emergency medical procedure that isn’t covered by insurance or claim to be mugged. Sometimes the scammer pretends that they need the funds to come visit the target in-person.

Scammers always make up a good excuse and pretend that they will pay you back. Romantic scams sometimes happen over the course of years, with the scammer continuing to ask for more money from the same person.

Older divorced or widowed women are the most common target, according to the FBI. Criminal groups in Nigeria have been known to run romantic scams.

Here are some tips to protect yourself from romantic scams:

  • Be cautious with online dating, especially if the person is never able to meet you in real life
  • Pay attention if someone seems too perfect or expresses strong feelings very fast
  • Search for the person’s photo online to see if it has been used for other dating profiles
  • Be suspicious if the person asks you right away to leave the dating website
  • Don’t share any photos or information online that a scammer can use to blackmail you
  • Never send money to someone you don’t know, no matter what their excuse is

Romantic scams can hurt financially and emotionally. Use caution and don’t ignore the warning signs.

Scammers may pretend to be a loved one to trick you into giving money for a fake emergency.
Scammers may pretend to be a loved one to trick you into giving money for a fake emergency.

Scams That Use Fear Against You

Fear is another common tactic scammers use to trick people into handing over their money. Seniors are a frequent target of fear-based scams, but it could happen to anyone.

There are a number of different scams that scare people with lies meant to intimidate people into quickly handing over personal information.

It may be a call or email claiming to be from the IRS. Scammers pretend to be employees of the IRS. They say that you owe money and need to pay immediately or they will call the police and have you arrested.

There is also a similar scam that pretends to be from your utility company. The scammer says that your power will be shut if you don’t pay them.

The “grandparent scam” pretends that one of your family members is in trouble. The scammer calls pretending to be your grandchild or another family member. They claim to need money right away for an emergency, like a DUI or medical issue.

All of these scams try to scare you into immediate action in hopes that you won’t have time to confirm the facts.

Here are some tips to protect yourself from fear-based scams:

  • If you are unsure about a caller, hang up and research the situation
  • Don’t let fear spark you into giving money away before you can confirm the truth in the situation
  • If someone claims to be a family member, ask the person to answer a question that only your real family member would know
  • Know that wire transfers, prepaid debit cards and other immediate forms of payments are often used in fear-based scams
  • Never give payment to anyone unless you are 100% sure it is legitimate

Make sure that your family and friends know the warning signs for romantic and fear-based scams. And take time to learn about other common scams. Especially card cracking (sometimes known as card popping), which lures victims in using social media with the promise of making fast cash, tricking them into committing fraud.

Suncoast members, let us know if you’ve been a target or are concerned you may have been a victim of one of these scams! Email and we’ll help.

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