The usual suspects

In his latest book, former con man and now a security consultant Frank Abagnale talks about what makes someone vulnerable to get scammed

Published 2 years ago on Sep 07, 2019 2 minutes Read

Who is likely to experience certain scams? It turns out that demographics — gender, socioeconomic status, age — differ based on the type of scam. The 2011 AARP Foundation National Fraud Victim Study of 723 fraud victims and 1,509 respondents from the general public found that victims of investment fraud, for instance, were more likely than the general population to be male, be married, have some college education, and make $50,000 or more. Lottery victims were more likely to be single, to have less than a college education, and to be less likely to make $50,000 or more. Victims of identity theft to obtain prescription drugs were more likely to be female and single, have less than some college education, report an annual income of less than $50,000, and have a higher average age than the general population.

Are some of us more prone to becoming victims than others? Yes and no. Research shows you can be vulnerable to a scam whether you're seventy-five or five — yes, children can be victims, too. I've also heard from business executives, doctors, lawyers, and other highly educated individuals who have been victims. So let's take a moment now to examine who gets scammed most often and why. If you see yourself in any of these categories, you may have to be more vigilant in making yourself un-scammable.

  • Active in more sales situations: Victims tend to be more engaged in the marketplace whether that is the consumer marketplace (such as shopping or investing in the stock market) or the marketplace of ideas (social media). They are more likely to report attending sales presentations when offered a free meal or hotel stay in return; entering their name in drawings to win a prize; allowing salespeople into their homes to make a presentation; and opening and reading every piece of mail they receive-catalogs, advertising circulars, contests offerings, and promotional come-ons.
  • Slow to take preventative actions: Victims are less likely than the general population to report taking prevention measures such as signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry or checking the references of businesses before hiring them. 
  • Under more stress: We have to be especially cautious in our decision-making during stressful events or when life is putting great demands on us. That's because stress takes up cognitive capacity, which means we may not be thinking about how to defend ourselves against scams. Moreover, when we're under stress, we give more weight to positive outcomes and we tend to discount negative effects of decisions.

This is an extract from Frank Abagnale's Scam Me If You Can published by Portfolio