Have you watched the Tinder Swindler or Puppet Master on Netflix and wondered how people could fall for the scams?

Watching the stories unfold through a screen means you can spot the red flags and inconsistencies, but when a scammer is targeting you, it can be much harder than you think to look at your situation objectively.

Over the last few months, TV shows showing huge scams that fraudsters have pulled off have become incredibly popular.

The Tinder Swindler racked up 45.8 million views in the first week it was available on Netflix, and it was in the top 10 chart in 92 countries. It shows how con man Simon Leviev used the dating app Tinder to manipulate women into financially supporting his lavish lifestyle.

Posing as a billionaire’s son, he earned the trust of these women over months before asking for financial help. It’s alleged he swindled over £7 million from victims.

It’s easy when watching the show to label victims as naïve or think that it’s a one-off case. But figures from Action Fraud show that almost £92 million was lost through dating scams in a year alone.

Leviev led women to believe they were in genuine relationships for months before asking for money. He exploited emotional connections.

Other popular shows looking at scams show the other tactics fraudsters may use. In Puppet Master, for example, Robert Hendy-Freegard creates an environment of fear to persuade victims to hand over thousands of pounds.

While you may think you’d easily spot a scam, the psychological tricks fraudsters use can catch you off guard.

The psychological tactics fraudsters use in 3 common scams

According to Barclays, scam attempts increased by 70% in the three months to January 2022. While scams that cost you tens of thousands of pounds may be rare, smaller scams can also have a damaging effect on your financial security and confidence.

Barclays’ chief behavioural scientist Dr Peter Brooks explains some of the psychological tricks scammers could use on you.

Purchase scams

Digital technology has made it far more convenient to buy goods, but it also provides fraudsters with an opportunity to scam you. In a purchasing scam, people buy goods online which don’t exist or never arrive.

This type of scam accounts for around half of all scams reported to the bank and, on average, victims lose £980. Scammers know that people are often cautious when shopping online. So, they may use one-time offers, limited availability, or reduced prices to encourage you to buy something quickly without fully thinking it through or researching the seller.

Impersonation scams

64% of Brits are more likely to comply with a request if they believe it’s coming from an institution they already know, like their bank or the police.

According to Dr Brooks, scammers use this to “harness a sense of authority to instil fear in their victims”. For example, they may say that your bank account has been compromised and you need to transfer your money. As they appear to be contacting you from a reputable organisation, victims are more likely to take what they’re saying at face value.

Technology that allows scammers to spoof telephone numbers can make it even more difficult to spot a scam. It may appear they’re calling from a number you recognise or can check online.

Investment scams

Investing your money provides an opportunity to help grow your wealth. Naturally, you want to get the most out of your investments, and this is something fraudsters use to try and convince you to make high-risk decisions.

While not as common as payment fraud, victims of investment scams will typically lose much larger sums of money. According to Barclays, the average victim of an investment scam lost £15,788.

In a bid to secure high investment returns, 32% of people said they would be willing to go with an investment or savings provider they’d never heard of.

Without carrying out research, these people could end up investing in schemes that don’t exist or are not an appropriate risk level for them. Much like payment scams, fraudsters may also use time-limited offers to add further pressure.

What should you do if you’re targeted by a scammer?

While scams are becoming more common, 31% of people said they wouldn’t know what to do if they found themselves being targeted.

If you have handed over money or other sensitive information, you should contact your bank and report it to the police immediately. In some cases, acting quickly could help you recover your losses.

If you’ve received some communication or an offer you’re not sure about, don’t rush. Taking a step back can provide you with some time to think about your options and carry out some research. Simply having some space can mean you’re able to spot red flags you may have missed initially. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

We’re also here to help you. If you’re not sure if something is genuine or if a financial decision is right for you, you can contact us to discuss your concerns and how potential opportunities would fit into your wider financial plan.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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