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The psychology behind all those scams

by TERRI DICKERSON/CDA Press Consumer Gal
| May 27, 2021 1:00 AM

Don’t kid yourself, scammers use psychological tactics to rip off their victims. But keep this in mind too, these tactics depend upon your willingness to do what the scammer wants you to do. The most popular tactics include phantom fixation, social proof, authority and scarcity.

Phantom fixation is where you’re offered a prize or reward so compelling that you can think of nothing you want more. Those thoughts of winning that big prize can affect our otherwise good judgment when we can dream of nothing else.

Social proof is the idea that everyone else is getting in on the deal so it must be good. Often scammers will use Facebook messenger to make it appear that your friends or acquaintances are sending you a notice that you need to get in on this great deal. Other scammers rely on testimonials to trick you into thinking what they are peddling is worth it.

Often scammers will impersonate a government official or company officer and represent that the offer is coming from someone to be trusted.

Finally, scarcity is the idea that if you don’t take advantage of this deal right now you will lose out and never get another chance to get this deal. Other scarcity tactics include portraying something as rare or very valuable and hard to get.

Remember in the end the scammer wants to separate us from our money or our personal information. Rips offs continue to occur because the scammer is successful at getting their victims to do what they want. Another interesting fact is that many of these tactics used by scammers are also used every day by legitimate businesses in their advertising.

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Cash App scams

Applications that allow us to easily transfer money between friends and family members are becoming more popular. But with an app called Cash App, scammers have found a way to exploit victims to swindle them out of thousands of dollars.

The scam works like this: The con artist “accidentally” transfers funds (usually several hundred dollars) into your account. Then they send you a follow-up message requesting the money back because they deposited the funds into your account in error.

Those who use these apps (not like PayPal) understand that the easiest way to correct a mistake is to recognize the error, acknowledge it and return the funds. But the problem is the funds that were initially deposited into your account usually come from a stolen credit card.

What happens next has a cascading effect. You believe you are doing the right thing by returning the funds when requested so you do, but now the rightful owner of the credit card catches the unauthorized withdrawal and files a complaint with his/her credit card company. The credit card company comes after the funds that were deposited into your account.

Essentially, what happens is you end up paying twice; once when you send the funds back to the bad actor and second when the credit card company comes after the money that was deposited into your account fraudulently. Of course when you go back to the scammer to request your money back, they are long gone right along with your money.

The best way to avoid these scams is to only exchange money with people you know. Only accept money transferred that you are expecting and only enable the cash app when you are expecting money from someone you know. If you are involved in a business transaction, use an exchange like PayPal that offers more safety features such as payment protection and dispute resolution.

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What website owners should know

If you have a business website you may not be aware that your website is required to be ADA compatible. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in the 1990s and at the time did not address websites but a ruling in 2018 brought websites under the umbrella of the ADA.

Besides making your website usable to a wider audience, you may want to seek the help of a website professional to review your site to prevent lawsuits. Any individual with a disability who attempts to use your website and cannot because it is not ADA compatible can bring a legal action against the owner of the website. Even worse is that there are law firms around the country that search for and bring lawsuits regularly against website owners who are not compliant. Most of these cases are settled out of court and are an easy source of income for the law firms filing the action.

If your website professional is not familiar with the ADA requirements refer them to www.ada.gov where the requirements can be found.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.