Learning how a scam works

Publication Date: Jul 12, 2021
 
Article by Ġemma published on The Sunday Times of Malta on 11th July 2021


Recently Malta has seen a spate of scams – including phishing, romance fraud and business email fraud. Newspapers have reported that one business lost nearly €90,000 as a result of a business e-mail fraud, and many people were defrauded over €100,000 by the Maltapost phishing scam. Last summer, Ġemma and the eSkills Malta Foundation signed a strategic partnership to disseminate knowledge on digital financial capability. Avoiding falling prey to fraud and scams is such one financial capability.

“The scammer tries to create a sense of urgency, and uses high-pressure sales tactics”

To date the two entities have jointly issued four e-books on scams and fraud (https:// gemma.gov.mt/ebook-download-page/​) as well as infographics (https://gemma.gov. mt/resources/infographics​) with tips on how to protect oneself against over 30 different types of scams and frauds. Both Ġemma and the eSkills Malta Foundation have been disseminating these through their respective social media channels. 

This is the first of a series of three articles on scams and fraud to make people more aware of what scams and frauds are; to pass on basic but important protection measures one should take, and about what one should do in the event that they are scammed. 

Most scams follow the same pattern – understand this pattern and they will be easier to spot. This the way a typical scam works: 

A scammer will approach you with a lie designed to seem like a believable story. They target your emotions and behaviour. Common examples are the chance to make money, to find a partner or to help somebody in need. 

The scammer will invariably disguise themselves as a person of authority and use familiar branding. The scammer will use social media, phone calls or SMS. 

The scammer’s tools are designed to get people to lower their defences, build trust in the story and act quickly or irrationally and proceed to the final stage – sending the money or providing personal information. The scammer tries to create a sense of urgency, and uses high-pressure sales tactics such as offering a limited offer, that prices will rise, or that the market will change, and the opportunity will be lost. 

They will also have all the hallmarks of a real business by using glossy brochures with technical industry jargon backed up with office fronts, call centres and professional websites. 

By using one’s personal details they make the scam appear legitimate. 

They will use counterfeit and official-looking documents – documents that appear to have government approval or are filled with legal jargon can give a scam an air of authority. 

At the point of contact, they will try to ask for money. Scammers will have their preferred money transfer method. Some of the methods may be wire transfer, credit/debit card, bank transfer, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. 

Ġemma is an independent financial capability portal.​