(USNewsMag.com) – Scammers come in all shapes and sizes. Some want to con you out of your money, while others want to case your home as a target for theft. Still others play the long game, gaining your trust until they can strike. Nearly all will say or do whatever it takes to make a quick buck, even if that includes violence or force. Here’s how to use situational awareness to avoid their dirty tricks and keep your loved ones safe.
Look for Telltale Signs
Scammers often employ the “look official” trick. They’ll dress up like someone you might not take notice of at first: the utility guy, a cable repair person, a survey taker, or any one of a thousand other familiar entities. This becomes a weapon of deception, allowing the scammer to use popular circumstances to remain hidden in plain sight.
You can’t predict where, when, or how they’ll show up. You can, however, discover who you’re really dealing with by answering a handful of questions right away. The devil is in the details!
- What does their vehicle look like? Is it properly marked?
- Is their clothing company-branded with current images?
- Is the logo right? Or, is it faded, outdated, or wrong?
- Are they wearing a complete uniform, or missing pieces?
- Does the uniform fit properly? Is it clean?
All of these details can be seen at first glance, and they can tell you a lot about the person knocking on your door. Consider an inability to answer no to any of the above as one a red flag.
Beware the “Legit” Scammer
Scammers often arrive under the cloak of legitimate business, such as home services or renovation contractors. Their goal is to get a large chunk of your money under the guise of starting a project for you. In fact, many will directly ask for a “deposit” on future services.
Body language and conversations are important, here. If they only focus on looking at the potential job responsibilities and details, and their questions are strictly related to the job, that’s a good sign. If they ask for big money before starting the work, run for the hills.
Note that reputable companies will sometimes ask for a deposit, but this will be reasonable and proportionate to the job. Asking for 33% of total costs, for example, isn’t necessarily a red flag for scams, but you should still check the company out before cutting a check. Asking for 50% or more upfront, while also demanding that you pay right now, is far more suspicious.
Seemingly legitimate scammers may also employ another favorite tactic known as the “Lowball; High Back.” This is a super low offer that keeps rising with surprise expenses.
While it’s possible for projects to need additional funding from time to time, an initially low offer that continuously grows may indicate the offer is too good to be true. At best, it shows desperation or manipulation, which are often a coverup for sub-par work. At worst, they may be trying to hustle you so they can disappear into the night with your cold, hard cash.
Consider the Body Language of a Scammer
The language and body language of a scammer are often different. They may avoid eye contact or stare at you with strange intensity. Some will put their hand to their mouth or face frequently when answering your questions.
Rubbing the back of the neck while looking around is also a red flag. In fact, excessive looking around is a sure sign everything is not on the up and up, full stop. They might have “darting vision,” too, intensely searching the environment for objects that have nothing to do with the job. For example, you might catch a scammer looking into vehicles, peering through windows, or trying to see around you into your home when you answer the door.
All of these behaviors are a sign of trouble.
Also beware of the “professional” who randomly asks you personal questions about your family, your work, your schedule, or your hobbies, especially if there’s really no good reason for them to need that information. Talking casually is fine, but when it gets personal, it’s a good reason to be cautious. The scammer may be hunting for information about what you own, how much they can manipulate you, or when it’s best to “hit” your home.
Scammers Are Sneaky
Picture this: police arrest a team of crooks posing as cable repair persons. They say the criminals went from box to box, opened them, pulled out the wires, and began looking up and down the streets noting who was home and who was not. They would record who left in the morning, what time they returned, and how many days they kept this habit. Then, they would lie in wait and rob them blind.
Fortunately for the homeowners, a local police officer living in the neighborhood noticed them. He tracked the whole charade with local law enforcement and caught them, but not before the crooks stole hundreds of thousands in valuables from other neighborhoods.
As outlandish as this scenario sounds, it’s far more realistic than most people think. Scams like this unfold in America every single day.
Scams are nothing more than a facade meant to trick people in one way or another. Sadly, the actions of these miscreants can cost you a lot more than money. Awareness is your best defense. Ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. Expect answers. If it doesn’t feel right, pay attention to that. Avoid confrontation. Always involve law enforcement.
Above all, don’t just go by feelings. Check and verify every time.
Remember: scammers are looking for easy targets. They’re masters at manipulation, but you have the ability to protect yourself. Be safe, and use what you’ve learned here to fend them off. Not everyone you deal with is a scammer, but you should be ready if one appears at your door.
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