From identity theft to foreign lotteries, from Nigerian letters to "free" vacation offers, there's always a new scam to look out for.
But no matter how much the scams change, there are common links you should know.
A ringing telephone could bring an alluring offer like this one, a recording of an actual scam. "My gosh, we're very, very excited. Everybody here is shouting your name. We're very, very excited for you." The AARP says more than a quarter of adults have fallen for pitches like that one, becoming victims of phony offers.
The AARP estimates that telemarketing scams rake in around 40 billion dollars a year. Now consumer groups say it's not enough to send out specific warnings as each new one pops up. Doug Shadel the Washington State Director of AARP says, "What we started to look at is, are there themes within each of these pitches, the different scams, that don't change."
Now, the AARP is teaming up with the FBI and local law enforcement officials in Washington State and have identified the pressure tactics and catch phrases that scammers commonly use. Among them, scarcity. A once in a lifetime offer but you must act now. Social proof, dozens of ordinary people already won big and you can too. Also, phantom fixation, an irresistible prize.
Investigators say recognizing these tactics is a better defense against scammers than simply teaching how each one works. Learning the psychological tricks, these groups say, teaches consumers how to use the most powerful defense of all, knowing when to hang up.
To learn more you can request a free copy of the AARP's findings called "weapons of fraud" at http://firstname.lastname@example.org.