Seven Behaviors that can Make You Vulnerable to Fraud

(Note: We found this article, printed in the May 2019 AARP Bulletin, to be very worthwhile–as well as a reflection of sad truth that we've seen far too many times.  A careful read might save you quite a bit of money and anguish.)

Does this sound like you?  If so, change your habits.

By Amy Nofziger and Mark Fetterhoff

What makes you prone to getting scammed?  It may be the personality traits that make you a good person.  Based on our research at the AARP Fraud Watch Network, here are some characteristics that make people vulnerable to fraud:

1. You respect authority.  Many common scams are perpetrated by crooks impersonating a police officer, an IRS or Social Security agent, or a court representative.  Always remember this: Government offices rarely call citizens to conduct business—and they never demand quick payment.  If that’s what the caller wants, put aside your inclination to defer to authority figures.  Just hang up.

2. You like to please people.  One scam we’ve been seeing hits people at work and plays on your good nature.  An email from a boss or coworker asks you to buy some expensive gift cards and take photos of the front and back of the card to get reimbursed.  The email is actually from a scammer mimicking the real thing.  Once he has the numbers from the gift cards, he uses them before the fraud is caught.

3. You are cocky.  We often hear from victims, “I’ve never been defrauded.  I thought I was too smart.”  If you believe you are immune to being cheated, think again.  Scammers are professionals—and endlessly creative.

4. You slipped up once. Sadly, if you have already been scammed, chances are good the fraud calls will increase.  Thieves put your information on a “victim list” that gets sold to other scammers or criminal rings.

5. You’re friendly.  Many victims who call us met their scammer on social media via a friend request.  Try to limit social media contact to real friends and family, and turn down requests from people you don’t know.

6. You are under stress.  We also get lots of calls from people who were tricked into giving away personal info while dealing with an illness or another stressful event.  People who have recently lost a loved one are also vulnerable, especially if the obituary reveals details that a crook can use as bait.  Be especially vigilant during times of crisis.

7. You’re lonely.  The Fraud Watch Network has found that many scam victims report feeling lonely and isolated from family and friends.  That makes them susceptible to the fake friendliness of professional thieves.  If you feel lonely or isolated, AARP and AARP Foundation have programs to help you connect with people in your community.  Go to connect2affect.org.

Amy Nofziger and Mark Fetterhoff are consumer fraud experts with the AARP Fraud Watch Network. The original article, including links and discussion, can be found online at https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/vulnerable-to-fraud.html.