2016 is upon us, and already we are being warned by security professionals to beware of clever online con games, especially those that target the elderly among us. Forex traders should be forewarned that the criminal element within our society has been adapting to the new possibilities of Internet fraud and is now accelerating its nefarious activities. Regulatory bodies are highlighting the latest scams, and concerned advocacy groups are doing their best to warn us of the latest schemes that are being perpetrated across the globe in real time or offline for that matter.
An argument can be made that financial complexity gives a fraudster a unique advantage, and our foreign exchange industry definitely fits the definition of being complicated and high risk. Like it or not, there is a new type of forex predator on the loose today that will brazenly contact you by phone, appear at your door, or, more than likely, scam you online. Cyber crime is growing at breakneck speeds, and the modern con artist has been quick to adapt old tried-and-true scams to the new electronic age.
Do you consider yourself friendly? Thrifty? Financially sophisticated? Gulp! I answered, “Yes” to all three. Yikes! If you answered yes to any of these questions, then according to the latest surveys, you are more likely to be defrauded by today’s modern scams because you may give strangers the benefit of the doubt, are more enticed by bargains and are comfortable moving larger amounts of money around. If you are getting on in years, living on a fixed income, and looking for other ways to put food on the table, then you are more than prone to being drawn in by a forex fraudster than ever before.
It is not new news that the elderly are more often than not susceptible to the siren call of the conman. Security professionals and behavioral psychologists have studied this phenomenon, and the sad commentary is that we tend to be more trusting later in life. Our various protection centers in the brain wind down. Scammers understand this situation well, and from a greed perspective, older adults are rightly targeted because they hold the majority of wealth in every country on the planet.
Why are older adults so prone to clever scams later in life?
There have been countless studies that have focused on this very question, but until the advent of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), very little research was able to pinpoint what exactly was going on in our brains when stimulated by external influences. There have been a number of studies performed with this powerful, innovative technology across different global markets, and the conclusions are generally the same: “Age-related changes in the brain make it harder to detect suspicious body language and other warning signs that people may be untrustworthy.”
The study involved a group of young and old adults reviewing several pictures of faces, each designed to appear trustworthy or not. The fMRI brain scans monitored the activity of the anterior insula, an area of the brain that researchers claimed is used primarily for assessing risk. For younger adults, the anterior insula was highly active, while activity in older adults was muted or almost non-existent. Further study has revealed that, as we age, the brain has a diminished capacity to process negative stimuli, which can be helpful in some areas of life, but not when the conman comes calling.
If we have problems detecting a potential fraud when it is physically staring at us, then what can we do when the thief uses the anonymity of the Internet to gain our trust? The fact remains that forex brokers and marketing agents have gotten more aggressive of late when offering tempting bonuses or brilliant software that offers instant forex wealth overnight. Add to this mix the ever-growing list of offshore processors, especially in the field of binary options, the advent of clone websites, and PC malware that will report back login and password information, and you have a recipe for fraud at every turn.
How are the forex scammers able to target older adults in the first place?
The “Number One” rule for avoiding the temptations of a forex conman is to be extra wary of anyone that approaches you on an unsolicited basis. This contact can often come from a simple phone call, chance face-to-face meeting, an email, even printed mail, or a clever and enticing link or pop-up that appears on your computer screen. Aggressive crooks do not wait for you to happen upon their domain. They prefer to initiate the possibility of contact by presenting a deal too good to pass up or by installing malware on your PC that will scare you into reacting without thinking first.
But how do the crooks find you to begin with? Many of us would contend that it is just pure dumb luck. It was just our time, but, aside from bad luck, there are also these three additional reasons to consider:
1) Data Purchases: If it works for other marketing professionals, then why wouldn’t a clever con artist buy phone numbers from the same type of companies that sell demographic data as their primary business. The fact is that scammers do use this method to pinpoint older adults. As long as they can buy lead generation clues for criminal purposes and get material responses, they will continue to do so;
2) Con Artist Network: If you think that crooks do not network, then think again. According to one security professional, “If you’ve been a victim of a fraud or scam, you’re put on a so-called sucker list. The lists are bought, sold, traded and stolen among scammers because they’re perceived as potential gold mines. Scammers will usually target the victims with a ‘recovery’ or ‘reload’ scam. They pretend to be from a consumer group or law enforcement agency and trick you into thinking they’ll help get your money back — for a fee.” If you have lost your deposit to a crooked broker, then you will more than likely receive a call from a crook that promises to get your money back for a small charge that must be paid up front;
3) Volunteered Information: The elderly are also prone to filling out surveys, entering enticing giveaway deals, or replying to sweepstake offers. The crook gathers your personal information on the front end for future use or sells the information to other conmen. Remember – they network, too.
The only difference today is that criminals have refined their methods and adapted them for use on the Internet. Once your personal information has been divulged, it is only a matter of time before your loss will be recognized. In most cases, it happens when you least expect it. Who would ever believe that criminally installed malware on your PC could report back login and password information on your personal banking or brokerage accounts to outsiders? This thievery is fact, not fiction!
What are the new and improved scams to be wary of in the forex world?
As a forex trader, you are forever warned to use due diligence when selecting your broker and to monitor its performance over time. Situations can change. Many forex brokers have fallen to the wayside over the past year, and many more are just hanging in there, hoping that their financial condition will improve. The new and improved scams, however, are clever attempts to deceive you with clone website look-alikes, to gain access to your actual account information, or to tempt you straight away with bonus offerings that are too good to ignore. Here is a brief recap of situations to be wary of:
1) Tech Support: Beware the call or the email from a forex or IT technician that suggests that you have problems with your computer’s operating system. According to MicroSoft, 3.3 million people were directed to a clone website and defrauded out of $1.5 billion last year. The tech impersonator will more than likely be using contact information that was captured from malware attached to your PC that got there when you clicked on some forex related link on the Internet;
2) Silent Call: Have you received a robo-call where no one answers? It is the first stage of adding you to a list to be used later for fraud schemes. If you do not recognize the number calling, do not answer. If a forex broker promoter is cold-calling you, then you might want to decline any offers of free gifts, bonuses, etc., in order to gather your personal data for his use or sale;
3) Counterfeit Apps: Apple had to purge its app store of many fraudulent apps that were designed to report back login and password information to crime rings. The crooks may not be able to transfer funds, if your broker is following AML regulations to the letter. Otherwise, they can change account information or download your personal data for nefarious purposes at a later date. You would not have a clue of what was happening in the background, unless your broker notified you of changes. Make sure you know what you are buying when installing a new app on your smart phone;
4) Gift Vouchers or Enticing Bonus Offers: Once the crook has your personal ID information, your email address, and that you are a forex trader, he can craft deceitful emails that may entice you to click embedded links to participate in a competition, be part of a special drawing, or receive a new bonus if only you would send more money to your account. In some cases, the experts say, “It’s a phishing scam, meaning the perpetrator is either trying to install malware on your computer or gather personal info by having you complete an online questionnaire.”
The new forex predators of today are sophisticated, online conmen. They remain cleverly disguised wolves in sheep’s clothing, primarily using the anonymity of the Internet to gain your trust, with a predilection for preying on the elderly within our society. Like it or not, our brains do age with time. Our trust sensors grow weary with age, but in order to avoid the conman’s traps, we need to be ever vigilant whenever encountered by a stranger, either in person or online, or even someone referred to us by a family member. We may have to accept that age comes at a cost, but we can still be skeptical and suspicious when the conman approaches, if we put our minds to it. Stay Cautious!