Beware of Scam Artists

Certain things never get old. Like a good pepperoni, bacon and ground beef pizza. A chocolate malt. Or watching “The Golden Girls” (while eating pizza and drinking a chocolate malt).

In crime prevention, one rule that never gets old is “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.”

If someone sends you a check in the mail for “winning a sweepstakes” you never entered, it’s too good to be true. If someone promises you a job in which you can make $5,000 a week but only have to work one day a week—yep, too good to be true. If, as happened here in Coconut Creek recently, someone claims they’ll pay you $1,800 to wrap your car in an advertisement … too good to be true.

The No. 1 thing to remember with this rule is to apply it when necessary. Here’s an example: The girl you just met on a dating app is totally into you, laughs at all of your jokes, and says you’re her “soul mate” even though all you know is her first name. However, she always has an excuse for why she can’t meet face-to-face, then asks you for money to pay one of her bills. That’s the proper time to apply the “too good to be true” rule.

The goal of every scam artist is to get you to act emotionally. If they call posing as an IRS agent threatening to put you in jail because you “didn’t pay a fine,” they’re trying to elicit fear. If they call a grandmother posing as her grandson wanting her to send him money, they’re looking for pity. If you’re looking for a job and see an ad on a site like Craigslist for a “secret shopper” claiming that you’ll get money to shop, the emotion they’re going for is joy. Who wouldn’t want to shop with someone else’s money?

The bottom line is to remember that not all scams are based on fear. Con artists also use kindness as a weakness. They’ll use desperation as a means to humiliation. They’ll strive to lead you to make seemingly easy decisions that force you into some hard situations.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Scotty Leamon is the public safety information officer for the Coconut Creek Police Department.

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