How good are you at identifying scams?

Even Sherlock Holmes, were he alive today, would be mystified by AI’s ability to fool us. 
Conmen have been around for centuries, in search of both fame and fortune. (Fun fact: The word conmen derives from the phrase “confidence man.”)
And the world today offers a steady stream of modern-day con artists. Think Anna Delvey/Anna Sorokin, Elizabeth Holmes, Bernie Madoff.  
But recent technology has unleashed an extraordinary growth in deepfake photos and videos, and more than a dozen types of scams.
How do we possibly keep up?
To identify deepfake photos, experts encourage us to examine the edges of the face, the mouth, the teeth, to look for unrealistic backgrounds and polished skin. As for scams, investigators suggest a dizzying assortment of steps to protect our personal data; create a private network, always examine checks for fraud, etc.
But the truth is, a year from now, AI will become ever more clever, and fakery will become harder to detect.
A simpler solution
How do we cope? Here’s a simpler solution: learn to monitor your emotional state.
Kathy Stokes, AARP’s director of fraud prevention, as quoted in a piece by Dylan Croll, said, “That red flag – it’s that emotional reaction to an incoming communication. That’s the flag. That’s where to disengage.”
Associate Professor Joyce Pang, in a cautionary piece by DBS Bank, agrees.
“If you identify that you’re in a state of high emotion and the stakes are pretty high, check and make sure that your decision is not made from an emotional place, but rather from evaluating all of the information.”
It’s often the illusion of invulnerability that traps us, the belief that people always tell the truth (the truth bias), of believing it will never happen to me (the optimism bias).
Con artists prey on our emotions, creating urgency (“act fast”), fear (“you’ll lose your insurance”), and scarcity (“only two left”). We may be smart, but so are the scammers.
In the long term, it seems, building our emotional awareness is key. Nonetheless, it’s always good to know what scams are circulating and the reasons we fall for them.
Four signs
The Federal Trade Commission shares four signs that it’s a scam:
1. Scammers pretend to be from an organization you know, for instance, the government, FTC, SSA, IRS, Medicare, a utility company, or a charity.
2. Scammers say there’s a problem or a prize, like it’s an emergency, you owe money, there’s a virus on your computer, or you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes.
3. Scammers pressure you to act immediately.
4. Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way.
Scams arrive in many forms: the most common involve charities, debts, loans, mortgages, and lotteries.
Also circulating are grandparent and ransom scams. Experts recommend creating a family password.
But the cruelest of all might just be the romance scams.
FBI Special Agent Christine Beining, as quoted on, said, “The internet makes this type of crime easy because you can pretend to be anybody you want to be. You can be anywhere in the world and victimize people…
“The perpetrators will reach out to a lot of people on various networking sites to find somebody who may be a good target. Then they use what the victims have on their profile pages and try to work those relationships and see which ones develop,” she said.
Why we fall prey
There are six reasons we fall prey, according to a piece on
1. Financial desperation
2. Social engineering (scammers personalize their scams)
3. Lack of awareness
4. Emotional triggers (urgency, fear)
5. Trust and authority
6. Lack of vigilance
Reading those, it’s enough to make you wanna slip some bills under the mattress. But we can’t be on high alert all the time, we have lives to live.
Above all, remember…
Three final points when it comes to con artists: 
1. Don’t ever feel foolish or naïve for falling prey; scammers are smart and will do whatever it takes to tap our vulnerabilities; 
2. Be cautious, but don’t go crazy; and 
3. Above all, keep an eye on your emotional state.
Oh, and remember to pause.  

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