Some financial scams also use an element of grooming, typically to stop the victim from reporting the fraud or to get the victim to comply once they become suspicious. For example, a victim may be called or contacted without prior notice and offered a good investment opportunity with a quick profit. The scammer may create a fraudulent website to make the scam appear more legitimate, and since this takes time and resources, it’s in the scammer’s interest to stay active in the scamming business as long as possible.
If the victim decides to invest, they will be given legitimate looking papers to sign, and for a while, they will be confident that the deal they just entered into is credible. But after the period of time quoted initially lapses when the victim is supposed to get returns, suspicion will set in quickly, and the victim will start asking questions. This is a dangerous stage for the scammer because it is in their interest to keep the scam going as long as possible. Often, this is where another person will be brought in to “cool the mark.” This is a very old scam technique. This new person will establish a friendship with a victim, perhaps by calling them daily and engaging in multiple conversations where personal daily life details are exchanged. Frequently, just like in romance scams, a scammer may mimic the victim’s circumstances, pretending to have the same religious affiliation or having the same beliefs and attitudes as the victim. This similarity will increase trust. The scammer will use this trust to reassure the victim, promising them that the delay is short and there are only minor complications, all the while assuming the position of a friend and a confidant. This makes it difficult for the victim to report the crime once they start to suspect something is wrong because they feel guilty reporting a friend.
The purpose of “cooling the mark” is to get a victim to accept that they have been conned, and the scammer can go on scamming more people in the meantime. Victims may also be asked to keep the transaction a secret, with an excuse that only so many people may benefit from this deal or perhaps because the deal is not completely ethical or legal. This also plays into scammers’ hands and avoids detection, as the victim may feel they have been involved in something illegal.
Putting a victim in a certain role is a scam technique known in psychological parlance as altercasting. For example, people would not hesitate to report a stranger, but when it comes to people they consider friends, it is harder because a true friend would not harm us, so there is a difficulty coming to terms with that realization.
Psychic and Clairvoyant Scams
Some psychic and clairvoyant scams can also have an element of grooming attached to them. These types of scams prey on recently bereaved individuals, but women and younger people are also more vulnerable to these types of frauds. A victim may engage with the psychic several times, becoming emotionally dependent on these conversations to manage their bereavement. The psychic may appear friendly and caring, assuming a role of a protector and a friend, but all the while exploiting the victim for monetary gain. If a victim decides to cut ties, sometimes threats are used to keep the exploitation going. The clairvoyant or a psychic may tell the victim that someone placed a curse or bad luck on them and ask for money to remove it, keeping the victim in the never-ending nightmare. The longer this relationship lasts, the more difficult is for the victim to break away from it due to sense of loyalty or fear.
What to Do if You Suspect a Scammer Is Grooming You
Scammers rely on secrecy, so first thing you can do to protect yourself is to confide in a good friend or a family member and ask them to give you advice. As they are not emotionally invested, they are likely to offer rational advice or a sounding board, which may be all you need to break away. Remember, scammers thrive where there is secrecy. The second thing that you can do is to report the scam to the authorities as soon as possible and provide them with as much detail as possible. It is likely other people are being abused by the same scammer, and your actions will save someone from going through the same experience. You are also likely to get advice on what to do.
Also, fraud prevention resources such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Take Five offer advice and reporting mechanisms. They also post information about recent and known scams, and they can provide further insights.
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