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Toxic Ex: Scammers And Their Techniques Are Evolving



There is no denying the fact that scammers are horrible. They do not care who they prey upon (whether it is the young, elderly, poor, rich, etc.) and they see no problem with having a profession that ruins people’s lives. They drop an overwhelming and nonexistent problem on top of us then paint themselves as “the savior”; promising that all of our turmoil will be solved with their “help”. They play on our emotions, knowing full well how to manipulate us into giving them exactly what they want in exchange for their reassurance that everything is going to be okay. To sum it up, scammers are horrible because they make us feel like we are in the wrong instead of them. In earlier times, scammers used to be the annoying “ex”; they come around once in a while to remind you that they are still out there (you never give them the time of day). However, their techniques have recently evolved. Instead of playing the annoying pest, scammers have become the abusive ex that never goes away.


A CALL WITH A SCAMMER IS LIKE A CALL FROM A TOXIC EX


A friend of your correspondent (we will call her Jenna) recently had a very rude run-in with a scammer who turned out to be a “toxically evolved” ex. Keep in mind that Jenna is a college-educated, very bright, young woman who is not so easily fooled. She has had multiple experiences with scammers before and handled them appropriately (whether that was telling them to bugger off, hanging up the phone, or a combination of both). However, this scammer was different. From a number within her city, a man called her once in the morning and once in the afternoon before he could reach her. When she finally picked up, their conversation went something like this:


Jenna: “Hello, who is this?”


Toxic Scammer: “Hello, this is Mike from Amazon Web Services. It appears that someone has charged $404.65 on your account, but we did not think this was you. Can you verify this payment?


Jenna: “It most certainly was not me. But I do have an Amazon Web Services account that I thought I canceled months ago.”


Toxic Scammer: “Well it says here that you have not canceled it, and we must notify you if our office detects any suspicious behavior. Whoever this person is, they got your information and we need to start a report on it immediately so that we can stop them from charging on your account. Please spell out your name for me.”


Jenna was right to be suspicious, but she spelled out her name (the scammer repeated it back to her with the spelling wrong; FIRST RED FLAG).


Toxic Scammer: “And what is your zip code so we can pull up your file?”


Jenna reluctantly gave her zip code, and the scammer pulled up her “file” within T-minus 1 second. Usually, if an employee is working within a system it would take them longer -at least a minute- to pull up someone’s records (SECOND RED FLAG).


Toxic Scammer: “Okay, it looks like the individual is using your social security number for a multitude of criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, murder, and con-artistry. You are being framed for these crimes that I am assuming you did not commit, is that correct?”


*Jenna is stunned into silence*


Toxic Scammer: “I am from the Federal Office of Fraud and I need your information so that we can prevent you from going to prison for 9 years.”


Well that escalated quickly. By then, Jenna was able to recognize that this was indeed a cold-blooded scam, but the scammer’s ability to adapt to the details of her life is what got her on the hook.


SCAMMER RED FLAGS


There are numerous red flags that can easily be recognized when talking to scammers. However, it takes more skill to recognize the red flags of a scammer who is more “evolved”. Evolved scammers rely on their talents for social engineering; using deceitful tactics to gain an individual’s valuable information in order to commit the crime of fraud. Here are a few tips to recognize their evolved behaviors:

  • Going off-script on a whim

When someone is a pathological liar, lying is just who they are. Not only is it second nature, they can do it without even realizing that the truth they are spouting is fake. Mark Twain said it best: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”. Evolved scammers are like pathological liars because if there’s a scenario that doesn’t align easily with their script or “hook” story, they just make up the details! Just like Mark twain though, if you can get them to keep talking about what they do, they most likely will get caught in the lies they are making. If you feel like something doesn’t add up, ask them to start from the beginning again. If they can’t remember what they said 5 minutes ago, don’t fall for a single word of it.

  • Adapting to the victim’s specific responses

Not all scammers are masters at appealing to their audience. Most of the time, they are reading a script and it is up to them to get the caller to believe it. However, evolved scammers start with a hook and your flight to “Neverland” takes off from there. In order to get your information, they know how to sell whatever it is they are saying because they take notes about your specific situation. They adapt quickly to the individual’s responses on the other end and they change directions if they feel the caller is pulling away. Since Jenna was drawn in with the true fact that she owns an Amazon account (because who doesn’t nowadays), she gave her name and zip code in a panic, but it’s lucky she didn’t give them anything else. Scammers are evolving because of their skill to make it seem like they know the individual on the other line better than they actually do. However, in reality, they are just master adapters to whomever they are speaking.


  • The “I hate you/I love you”

Just like a toxic ex, the “I hate you, I love you” tactic is used by evolved scammers to gain control over their victims. Usually, regular scammers will call claiming that you have a big problem and it is urgent that you give them your information so they can help you. Evolved scammers take this to a completely different level. They tap into our human nature of wanting to trust somebody and take full advantage of it. They will plop a huge problem in front of you and act like they are the savior claiming that only they have the support that you need to fix it. Obviously, this is toxic ex behavior and it should never be trusted. Just like a toxic ex, once that scammer gets what they want (your information) they are going to run. If you refuse them, they will start yelling at you and blaming you for being inconsiderate of your "disastrous" situation. If a complete stranger is this invested in your personal life, that should be a red flag.


IF YOU ARE FEELING MENTALLY STABLE AND WANT TO MESS WITH SCAMMERS IN RETURN, ASK THESE QUESTIONS:



  • Who exactly are you working for?

If they were an actual government institution or certified organization, they would not be calling you on your mobile phone. You would instead receive a notice via a more official form of communication.

  • Are you sure that you have the right person? Tell me, what’s my name. Where do I live?

Most often, scammers have no idea who they are contacting. Usually, you are probably just a phone number on their list of lucky people to call. If they weren’t acting as some sketchy underground scheme, they would at least know the name of the person they are trying to contact (and be able to spell it correctly). If you ask them another basic question about you and they get it wrong, chances are they’re wasting your time.

  • How do I know that this isn’t a scam?

There’s always an awkward pause on the other line when you ask this one. Sometimes they have a good story or an excuse prepared, but most of the time, they can never truly prove that whatever BS they’re selling is actually real. If they’re going in circles trying to explain their organization and their purpose for calling, don’t believe a single word. If they get angry and start yelling at you, calling you stupid for not believing their lies, tell them to stick it up their @#$%.

  • May I please speak to your manager or another colleague?

This is another easy way to get them to admit that they are not the reputable organization they claim to be. Usually you would be able to talk to other personnel on the line, but if there’s no other personnel to talk to, they’re probably not trustworthy.

  • If I can’t speak to your manager, can I get your phone number or your own information to verify that you are who you say you are?

If you can, use their own tactics against them. It doesn’t matter if they insist on sending you a copy of their ID badge (assume it is fake and a separate scheme to install a rootkit or some other form of malware on your computer), nothing they say is believable. Instead, ask for their personal phone number or email and crosscheck that information. By turning the tables on them, they will likely get insulted that you are questioning their integrity (heaven forbid, how insulting!) and will probably refuse to give you anything. Asking for some contact information to fall back on is not such an absurd request, nor something to get so angry about. If they react accordingly, that probably means they can’t prove their identity, and therefore, they probably can’t be trusted.


CONCLUSION


Overall, everybody can agree that we all hate scammers. We are all trying to get by in life, but these people make their living by tearing down others and backstabbing those who choose to trust them. However, “toxic-ex” scammers take the cake for being the worst. With these criminals, the high road is over-rated. They know how to get close to their victims by using social engineering tactics, keeping them on the hook, and then going for the jugular to steal their private information. If you believe that you have been the victim of an evolved scammer, immediately go to usa.gov and report your incident to the State Consumer Protection Offices. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for collecting reports about fraud and tracking down your scammer before they can inflict further damage. Be sure to check out their official website for more information, as well as the tell-tale signs of other types of scammer schemes (medical fraud, tax fraud, etc.). If you answer the phone and happen to be speaking to a suspicious stranger, hang up or write down the phone number while watching for the signs we discussed. Always remember to treat scammers like your "toxic-ex"; never give them anything of your sweet self.


RESOURCES TO REPORT SCAMMERS

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