Updated: Jan 6
Given the huge decline in travel abroad at present, I was going to resist publishing this post, however, the principles remain true.
As Ive said before 'It's a numbers game' and fraudsters don't want to waste their time chasing potential targets who are not going to be conned. So how do they target those who are more likely to be scammed than others? Once again, this boils down to understanding human nature.
For a number of reasons, the elderly are the easiest targets. They belong to a world where (rightly or wrongly) they believe that they should be able to trust what people tell them. Despite the comparatively few 'Silver Surfers' who have embraced technology, the vast majority still prefer the printed word, or better still, someone to talk to. Recent figures suggest that well over 10 million elderly live alone and it should come as no surprise that many of them are lonely. Fraudsters know this and exploit the fact by presenting themselves as someone who is genuinely interested in them and their lives. Long before the scam is introduced into the conversation, they have learned about their personal situations, their family and friends (or lack of) and any vulnerabilities. It is a combination of these that can shape the scam accordingly.
If it is their personal security that worries them, the fraudster might suggest that he can upgrade their locks, fit an alarm etc or if they want to invest money for their grandchildren, he might suggest that he has a friend who is a genius with stocks and shares. The saddest thing is that even if the pensioner thinks there is a good chance they are being scammed, they are so lonely, they go along with it purely to maintain the human contact. They turn a blind eye to any doubts they might have purely so they can look forwards to a phone call from someone who at least sounds as if they care. Very sad but very true.
Another group that provide rich pickings are the 'get rich quick' brigade. Anyone with an ounce of common sense realises that there is no such thing as a free lunch, however, time and time again punters form an orderly queue to be taken advantage of. Fraudsters work on the fact that there is still a rich seam of people who genuinely believe that they can make a fortune by identifying an opportunity before anyone else does.
A friend and former colleague worked for a number of timeshare companies in Spain, Portugal and Majorca. He was the kind of guy you would enjoy a drink with and one of life's natural raconteurs. He made a good living selling dodgy timeshares but decided that he was missing a trick. He realised that the type of people who attended the timeshare presentations all shared a desire to male a quick buck/save a fortune. They were all willing to give up a full afternoon/morning of their precious annual holiday in the sun to listen to some shiny-suited guy try to convince them to sign up on the day for a 2 week slot in a resort just down the road from where they were staying but was yet to be built. By paying a hefty deposit today, they could secure a deal that would otherwise cost them 3x as much. The reality is that the new resort existed only in the mind of the punter of course.
Of the hundred or so at the presentation, on average, my friend ordinarily secured a single sale. However, doing this Monday to Friday, he would normally manage at least 3 deals a week - sometimes more. He realised that of the 99 out of the hundred that didn't buy a timeshare, they were still viable targets to scam and it would be complete madness to waste the opportunity on someone who had already evidenced their gullibility by turning up at the presentation in the first place.
He surreptitiously copied and used the contact details provided by the punters at the presentation to approach them again. He would say something like ' between you and me, I was not comfortable with the ethics of the company I was working for at the presentation so I've left them. I'm now working for myself with virtually no overheads so I can pass those savings on to buyers like yourself' In doing so he more than doubled his income, by convincing punters that he was someone they could trust by dint of the fact he had left an former unscrupulous employer, and was happy to share the benefits of working as a freelancer.
Of those punters he approached like this, his hit rate was much higher and his lifestyle improved considerably. In reality he never left his original employer, and his new punters were simply the cherry on the cake. However, it doesn't end there. As I said at the earlier it's a numbers game; the fact that all of those punters who entered their contact details at the presentation were actually declaring to guys like me and my friend that they are someone whose gullibility could be exploited.
Whilst my friend spanked that list until it bled, those names, numbers and email addresses could still be valuable to other scammers. He then sold this 'suckers list' to other fraudsters who specialise in other types of scam. If they are gullible enough to fall for one type of scam there is a good chance they will be equally gullible in falling for another. None of this is rocket science. It's just about understanding human nature and exploiting peoples vulnerabilities.
PS - Out of curiosity Ive just chatted to my timeshare friend; apparently business is better than ever. He has hooked up with a couple of holiday home parks (aka posh caravan sites) and once a week, books up the bar offering 3 free drinks to anyone who attends. He sees this as an investment as it (a) it lowers their defences and (b) it engages the principle of reciprocity where if someone does something for you - you feel obliged to do something for them. This includes parting with your hard earned cash. The added bonus is that the punters can't visit the 'new resort' in Spain etc. To provide provenance and realism he has simple pulled off images from Google Earth and added a red line outlining the boundary of 'Casa Del Cash'...........as I said 'Its not rocket science.