Trust plays a big role in cons

Tuesday, November 18th 2008, 8:11 pm
By: News On 6

‘Tis the season when con artists really come out of the woodwork and nowadays, they have so many ways to find victims... in person, through the mail, over the phone, on the internet.

I get more calls and questions about cons and scams than any other crime. Several times a week, someone will tell me about a letter they received from a sweepstakes that includes a check. They want to know if it's real. The fact they called me tells me their gut instinct knows something is wrong and they are right.

Many victims refuse to report cons to police because they are so embarrassed they fell for something that in hindsight seems so obvious. They can't imagine why they trusted someone, when they know better. I don't understand why they blame themselves and not the criminal.

I read an interesting article the other day about why cons work and it's not because we trust them, it's because they show trust in us. They seem fragile or vulnerable and need our help and we are eager to help, especially in Oklahoma, where many good people exist. We think, "How can I help" when we see someone in need, not, "how can I help and stay safe." That needs to be our new motto. I always tell people there is a way to be a good citizen, a good Samaritan, but, stay safe. That needs to be our mindset and it would save a lot of hassle and trouble later. We see someone in need, not, "how can I help and stay safe." That needs to be our new motto. I always tell people there is a way help others but, stay safe doing it, even if it means leaving the area and calling for help.

Cons often start with someone needing our help. "I found this box of cash and don't know what to do with it. My boss, at a bank, says we can keep it, if we pay the taxes and fees so how about I put in half (pick any amount) and you put in half and we'll split this 10-grand." Of course, you give your half and they disappear. By the way, if you find money and turn it into police, you get to keep it for free, if no one claims it in 30 days.

The popular one these days is a person comes up with some kind of legitimate sounding reason why they need you to cash a check for them. You deposit it, send them some and keep some for your trouble. The real trouble is the check is a fake and your bank will hold you liable for the entire amount.

The problem is, we believe people when they tell us a story, especially a sad one. We want to believe everyone is like us, but they are not. Increasingly, they are not.

So, the next time a stranger approaches you because you seem kind hearted and you look like a good person or they can tell you are a religious sort, beware. They are showing trust in you for some reason, in hopes you will turn around and trust them. That trust could very well lead to a con.