Caveat emptor — buyer beware
I’m sure most are familiar with the above phrase however how many of us really understand its implications? I recently had a conversation with someone who knows very well what this phrase encompasses. They were scammed for thousands of dollars through an ad they had on Facebook.
The specific details of the story are not important. There are as many examples of such atrocities as there are victims.
There may be no way to guarantee we avoid these scammers. They are like hackers, they grow and morph into the next shape needed to control their domain. They will always be one step ahead of us. However, with awareness, we may be able to stay alert to them. Below is a list of red flags to alert us when something seems too good to be true.
- Emails or texts never read quite right. There are obvious spelling mistakes or grammar issues that stand out. Often capitals, words, or punctuation is missing or placed where they shouldn’t be, or obvious names or places have been misspelled.
The look of the correspondence is not thoughtful or professional.
- Scammers act like they are in dire need and there is always time constraints to get something done. They need something that only the victim can do and they are willing to pay well for the help. The victim will feel pressured to act without time to think things through. This is a part of their distraction tactic.
There is urgency built into their request.
- There is always an exchange of money involved. Something fake from the scammer is exchanged for something real from the victim. The victim is left holding an empty bag. In many cases, they are out thousands of their hard-earned dollars.
The victim gets stuck footing the bill.
- Often scammers will ask the victim to act on their behalf. For some reason, they cannot be present and need the victim to handle some kind of financial transaction for them.
Be suspicious if buyers or sellers cannot meet you in person.
- Scammers are looking to exploit our hopes or our fears, or both. Threats and hyperbole may be involved so as to heighten the victims’ sense of urgency and seriousness about the situation. Scammers will warp the truth and manipulate the details to fit their means.
They want the victim acting out of emotion, not thinking rationally.
- Look at all email addresses and domain names for signs of authenticity. Names should coincide with other information given, a business should have a professional look. Be suspicious if a business is using a free email service like gmail, hotmail, or yahoo, as most businesses don’t.
Email addresses and domain names often look suspicious.
- Follow your gut. If there is any reason to suspect that you are being scammed, stop everything and break all contact. Most people I’ve talked to say they had a feeling something wasn’t right. Still, they either couldn’t put their finger on it or they ignored the nudge from their all-knowing conscience and went ahead with it anyway.
If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Scammers prey on the vulnerable
They target people who are in need themselves yet also willing to help others. Somehow they get to our heart, find our weak point, and prey on that weakness. They are skilled manipulators, so if you have been scammed don’t feel ashamed. You just slipped into their cunning trap.
These perpetrators are really really good at their jobs.
Scammers are guilt-free sociopaths who have fun ripping people off. They need to be taken seriously. We need to be hyper-vigilant about how we conduct our online affairs. Any one of us could be their next victim.
Caveat emptor — buyer beware.