5. Scammers create instant terror
“Grandpa, help! I’ve been arrested and need money for bail right away!”
The Trick: “When you’re afraid, the emotional part of your brain takes over the cognitive part of your brain,” Shadel says. “That’s what they want. When your emotions kick in, it swaps out the logic.” In such moments of powerful emotion, you are far more likely to think you hear a loved one’s voice and to fall for a scam.
6. Scammers seduce you
“I love talking to you. I have not felt so close to someone in so long.”
The Trick: In a romance scam, as in a [real] love relationship, you’ll have reciprocating self-disclosures,” Pratkanis explains. “I’ll tell you a little bit about me. In return, you tell me a little bit about you. And as we go further down the path, we say more intimate things, and that creates a sense of closeness, even love.”
7. Scammers intimidate you
“I’m with the police; you’ve missed jury duty again. Either pay a $900 fine now or go to jail.”
The Trick: They present themselves as a feared authority (say, a cop, IRS officer or Medicare rep). “Technology makes it so easy now to pretend to be someone you’re not,” Shadel says. “Criminals can program their caller ID so it says ‘San Diego Sheriff’s Office.’ ”
How to stay rational when scammers rattle you
Monitor your reactions to calls from strangers. Do you feel heated? Is your pulse rising? Are you getting angry or anxious?
If the answer is yes, get out of the situation immediately. Simply say, “I won’t do this by phone. Send a letter. Goodbye.” Then hang up.
Recenter yourself: Leave the room, take 10 deep breaths and ask yourself questions that you know the answers to, such as “What color is grass?”
Look at the situation like a scientist, as though you’re observing someone else in the same position.
Never make an immediate impulse-buying decision. Wait at least 24 hours to allow emotions to subside before making a purchase.
Get advice from a person you trust and respect. Merely discussing the situation out loud helps bring rationality back.