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Go inside the mind of a schemer

A fraudster is always looking for the next victim. Do not let it be you. Go deep inside the mind of a schemer so you can better avoid their tactics.

SAN ANTONIO — Schemers do not come across as wanting to hurt you. Instead, they often offer what looks like help. Yet, it is your wallet that actually ends up injured after it is emptied out.

“It’s very, very lucrative,” said Max Kilger, a psychologist and cybercrime expert who the director of the data analytics program and an associate professor at the University of Texas-San Antonio.

“Schemer” might not be a traditional job title, but it is high paying.

 “You can earn millions easily in cybercrime and it’s difficult to be caught and so it’s a return on investment is pretty incredible,” said Kilger.

The schemes often start small.

“It all started as a matter of opportunity,” said Michael Skiba who is known as Dr. Fraud.

He wrote the book about the mind of a schemer called the “Psychology of Fraud.” He spoke with about 100 schemers to figure out how their minds work.

“A lot of them weren’t even looking for it,” said Skiba. “It just basically fell in their lap. They took advantage of it, realized how easy it was, and then it grew from there.”

Schemers take advantage of one simple but strong human desire. It is a trait we all have.

“Curiosity is, you know, it’s part of us,” said Skiba. “It’s ingrained in us and they feed off that.”

Curiosity makes us click.

“There’s always something inside our mind thinks, wow, what did I miss out on? You know, it’s very, very strong. Very hard to fight,” said Skiba.

Schemers often use technology to connect--text, calls, and email. They rarely see their targets and therefore do not view them as victims.

“That does create that incredible disconnect,” said Skiba. “It actually makes that fraudster, you know, it makes them feel almost good about it because they don’t know the damage that they’re inflicting.”

There is rarely a stigma that comes with the crime.

“It’s rarely prosecuted as strongly as we would like,” he said. “Really the punishment is so low that, you know, even if they do get caught and get punished, they often times come back and do it again.”

Skiba sees fraud as both a social problem as well as a criminal one.

“It’s acceptable," he said. "Studies show that upwards of 50 percent of the public actually think it’s acceptable to commit fraud. That’s interesting because if you look at other criminal areas, you know, homicide, kidnapping, I mean, we should hope it would be zero. Right? It’s not. This is different because fraudsters come out and they still don’t feel back about themselves after they do it.”

Yet, there is one sure way to scare off a schemer.

“Make it more difficult,” said Skiba. “They will go to other places because they don’t want to, you know, invest extra time. If you answer the phone on a robocall and you keep them talking for more than a half-hour, they are probably going to hang up because they don’t want to talk to you anymore. They want your information in a few minutes.”

He recommended a two-step general scheme defense system. First, use privacy settings anywhere you can.

“Adjust all those settings on your website, your app, you know, even your Internet service providers, they actually have security settings as well,” Skiba said.

Second, watch what you release.

“I question all the time when asked for my Social Security number,” he said. “Very often they don’t even need it or they can just get away with the last four digits.”

Or just keep it simple:

“Think twice before you click on something or you go to a website that you haven’t been to before,” said Kilger. “Taking five seconds to just think about that before you do it can be very beneficial.”

It does mean more work for you but leaving them without a paycheck can put a crook out of work.

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