Aug 14th 2009
Research shows that it’s not necessarily the uneducated or the lonely, gullible senior citizens who fall for financial scams.
One needs only to think of the victims of Bernard Madoff to see that years of investing experience isn’t enough protection against fraudsters. And consider this: “The typical investment-scam victim is an optimistic married man in his later 50s who has a higher-than-average knowledge of financial matters and deep confidence in his own judgment.” This is according to research funded by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's Finra Investor Education Foundation, as reported by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
Perhaps “deep confidence” is not such a good thing. Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, has written that these victims may be too sure of themselves, as they don’t ask for other opinions. “Criminals aren’t any smarter than we are, they just pay attention to how stupid we can be.”
Are you interested in being scammed? Here are a few ways to increase your odds of becoming an identity theft victim:
- Always trust your judgment. (See above).
- Pay attention to your inner insecurities. The Journal reports that con artists play on the generosity of their victims while honing in on vulnerabilities. Some victims believe they can leave money behind for their children or help with college tuition or give to a worthy charity. Often, greed is NOT the motivation for investing in what turns out to be a scam.
- Get friendly with phone callers. James Vitale, who spent time in prison for selling fraudulent business opportunities, told the Journal that he learned to listen carefully to victims and then paint the picture they wanted to see. Scam artists will pretend to be your friend.
- Listen quietly. Those who listen without asking lots of questions are more vulnerable, research shows.
- Look on the bright side. Research bears out that those who put the “pros” before the “cons” when they’re considering an investment opportunity are more likely to be scammed.
- Get personal. Give your personal information over the phone, mail, or online, even if you don’t know who you are dealing with.
- Use the same password for your online accounts. It may be easier for you to remember, but an easy-to-crack code makes it a scammer’s job that much easier.
- Keep your Social Security card available at all times. Keeping your card in your wallet makes it easier to steal.
- Toss your financial statements and bills when you’re done with them and don't bother shredding them. Scammers love to dumpster dive.
- Don’t worry about your credit score if you’ve never had problems before. Even though experts advise you to check your credit report each year, don't bother, just trust that everything is okay....
Keeping yourself safe can prevent years of hassle. Take Ieshia Brown’s example. She told the NBC affiliate in Jacksonville, Florida, about a 16-year ordeal that started when someone stole her ID in 1993 and used it to get a fake driver’s license. Brown says, "It is terrible! My credit is ruined and now it has messed up my driving record."