Each year in the United States, many people lose money to con
artist, mail fraud, and other scams. Not only will people and organizations like
these take your money, they will steal your self-esteem as well. Although you
may feel you are too intelligent to be “taken,” anyone can be a victim. The
solution is to educate yourself so that you will be able to spot scams before
Con artist are rarely violent, but they are psychological
artists who have the ability to manipulate people out of their money, assets,
life insurance benefits, pensions, annuities, savings, and home equity. Because
con artists have an excellent sense of timing, most people willingly give over
these items. Realizing that you have made a mistake and have been taken by
a con artist can destroy your self-esteem.
If you are an older adult, living alone, and are single, you
are a prime target for a con artist. However, anyone can become a victim.
A con artist targets the victim’s most vulnerable characteristics, such as a
desire to help charitable organizations, or financial need, in order to exploit.
Con artists work in person, by telephone, and through the
mail. Some common phrases that should “tip you off” to a scam, mail
fraud, or con artist:
Something for nothing – you usually get nothing
Big money guaranteed – no risk
Hurry now – do not delay
Last chance offer – act now
Too good to be true
Left over merchandise
Get rich quick
Limited time offer
Some common scams or con schemes to be on the watch for:
This con game is usually conducted by two well-dressed women of
different races. Since women are not normally considered a physical threat,
potential victims are not frightened by their approach. The mix of two
races reinforces in the victim’s mind that the two con artists are strangers
and not working together. The victim is always alone and is usually an older,
well-dressed woman who is approached in a park or a mall during regular business
One of the con artists approaches the intended victim and
starts a conversation, perhaps looking for directions. Soon the second con
artist approaches and asks if anyone has lost a package she claims to have found
in the area. The three then look into the package and find a sum of money
and a note, which gives the impression that the money has been obtained
The three decide they should share the money. One of
the con artists claims to know a lawyer who can advise them. This person leaves
then returns saying they can keep the money—but there is a catch. It seems
state law requires that all found money be held a certain period of time.
But the lawyer agrees to waive the waiting period if each can show they have
money to live on during the waiting period. The victim is convinced to
withdraw the amount of money agreed to, place it in the bag with the “found
money” and go see the lawyer. The cons switch the bags and leave the
victim with a bag of shredded paper on her way to the lawyer while they are
parking the car.
Bank Examiner Scam
Usually the victim is well dressed and nervous. She is told the
teller is dishonest and has taken some of her money. She is asked to withdraw a
sum of money from her account in cash. The swindle is similar to the
pigeon drop except the con artist plays the role of a bank official or bank
examiner. They phone the victim with a story that her checking or savings
account has been tampered with and a dishonest teller is suspected. The victim
is then instructed to give the money to the phony bank official that claims the
money will be marked, then re-deposited and traced through the system to catch
the dishonest teller. Needless to say, the victim will never see the money or
bank official again.
These cover a variety of cons involving the sale of bibles, other
religious items, and services that the con artist claims were ordered by the
deceased just prior to his or her death. A variation of this can consist
of a ruse entry in which someone claims to be a minister volunteering to counsel
the victim. Once in the house, the con artist claims that he or she needs
to use the rest room and uses the opportunity to commit theft.
In this scam, victims are tricked into ordering subscriptions for
magazines they are told will be distributed to hospitals, nursing homes, and
similar places. Others are simply talked into ordering magazines they do
not need by overly courteous people who play on their sympathy with tales of
hardship and good intentions.
As with magazine subscriptions, sometimes there are no insurance
policies at all, or those that are issued are totally inappropriate or
duplicative for the victims.
Faked Pedestrian Accidents
These involve slip and falls and other fake accidents to make victims
believe that they have injured an innocent pedestrian.
These usually begin with a repairman arriving at the victim’s door
and informing him or her that there is a problem with the roof or driveway, and
they can repair it immediately. They normally ask for payment before the job is
Your best defense in any of these situations is to
investigate everything carefully. The Better Business Bureau and the Attorney
General’s Office can provide you with information. Always be aware of
unsolicited offers. Avoid hasty decisions. Take the time to
thoroughly read, discuss and understand any paperwork you sign. Criminal
fraud is often hard to detect, so caution should always be exercised.
If you notice or are approached by someone promoting any
of these “opportunities,” immediately report them to the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office at