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How you look at the world can make you a fraud target | Here's how to turn the tables

What makes you vulnerable to a schemer? Your personal beliefs can become part of the fraudsters' playbook as they try to separate you from your money.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — New research from the Federal Trade Commission found fraud has a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color. Yet, losing money to a fraudster may be caused more by how you think about the world than by the color of your skin.

AAPR recently released a study showing how often people of color lose money to schemers.

“Nineteen to 20 percent have lost money due to scams,” said Shani Hosten, vice president for African American/Black audience strategy for AARP. “Also, we found that over 60 percent, which is even more troubling, have been repeat victims... So (they) lost money more than once. So these are alarming. We really just want to make sure we’re getting out to the community so people can protect themselves.”

A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study shows part of the problem is the method people of color use to pay. They more often used debit cards, cash, cryptocurrency and money orders... payment methods that have fewer fraud protections.

New information from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) shows it is not the color of your skin or the way you pay that makes you most susceptible to schemes, but rather how you see they world. The BBB identified four beliefs that can make it easier for a schemer to take advantage of others.

“It’s important to say that everybody is a potential target and everybody is open to being at risk for some kind of fraud at some level online, in person,” said Jason Meza, regional director of the BBB. “But investigators found that certain attitudes and beliefs from how these participants looked at the world, the mental frames, may have influenced the way they reacted to these scams.”

Belief #1: I am lucky.

It suggests some people believe wealth is dependent on chance.

“But when you think about it, in the form of order, it is that everybody has something to lose at this level whether it’s your ID, whether it’s money,” Meza said.

Belief #2: Asking questions makes me look stupid.

For some, looking smart means not asking questions.

“I feel what many South Texans already do very well is that we ask a lot of questions,” Meza said. “We press for details. We wait before interacting and potential fraudsters get caught off guard. They hang up, delete and move on. That’s good. This whole thing about really asking too many questions might make you seem ignorant, or it makes you seem like you’re giving too much away or even that you are pestering, or it’s a hassle for somebody on the other end of the line, but no. This is good. Let’s ask questions. Let’s be leery.”

Belief #3:  Good citizens comply with rules.

Some feel the need to not question authority.

“Primarily around government imposter scams, scams from, you know, callers calling up from the IRS or saying they’re from Social Security,” Hosten said.

“It’s the old adage that authorities shouldn’t be challenged. Con artists capitalize on that. We see that people are automatically thinking authorities should not be challenged, fall victim to this or fall prey and lose money,” Meza said.

Belief #4: Bad people are punished.

Many believe people will not take advantage of others.

“All this boils down to is that, you know, the world is organized in a way that rewards good people,” Meza said. “That 'what goes around comes around' scenario.”

Schemers use these four beliefs to trick people.

“The scammers, what they do is they look to utilize psychological tricks in every single type of scam,” said Michael Skiba, known as Dr. Fraud. “So regardless of your ethnic background, demographic background, you know, they will use those tips and clues and psychological manipulative kind of aspects to try to entice you in various ways.”

Yet, these beliefs can change. Identifying if you have them can help protect you from schemers. There also a few other steps you can take to make it hard for schemers.

“Make sure your phone number, cell line and land lines are on the National Do Not Call Registry by signing up at DoNotCall.gov,” Hosten said. “And making sure you’re taking advantage of robocall blocking services. Don’t pick up the phone if you don’t recognize the number.”

Make sure you also change your passwords often. Plus, pay with a credit card, which offers fraud protection.

Schemes are constantly changing, but being aware of beliefs that make you more likely to become a victim can help you better navigate any con you encounter.

“It changes every day,” Meza said. “Con artists pivot with the times. They see what’s in the news and they react and they, you know, they cleverly design their schemes just perfectly.”

It is important to report to local police, the BBB and the FTC if you are a victim of fraud or a scheme. It is the only way action against fraudsters can happen.