Seniors have a glaring weakness that makes them easy prey for fraudsters, cheats and scammers alike. Even unethical family members take advantage of this emotional weakness to squeeze money from their unsuspecting parents and grandparents.
Researchers from Stanford University have found there's one simple trick used by scammers that magically persuades seniors to let their guard down. If you get a senior into a state of high emotional arousal, like excitement or anger, it will increase their willingness to buy almost anything, even falsely advertise items!
Whether the emotions were positive or negative didn't matter. Either set of emotions clouded the judgement of seniors and lowered their ability to question the credibility of advertising claims.
That's why sentences like "double your money with no risk" or "your grandchildren need you, don't let them down" are so effective. They quickly stir up your excitement, fear or angst. Those emotions then make you blind to the true intentions of the people making the claim.
Examples of Pitches To Watch Out For
So whether it's a promise to get rich quick, reverse aging, save a child or help a veteran, these scams all have one thing in common, they manipulate your emotions into making a purchase you otherwise wouldn't make.
Here are some of examples that fraudsters and advertisers alike might use to convince older adults to part with their hard earned money:
1. "You'll make a killing"
2. "Double your money..."
3. "Do it for your kids and grandkids"
4. "I need your help, I'm in trouble"
5. "Every child deserves a meal"
But there's another ingredient that often gets added to the mix, that increases the level of excitement and anxiousness to even higher levels, clouding good judgement even further - time. Here are just a few examples:
1. Grandchild (fake) calls from out of town and says he's in immediate trouble (eviction, medical treatment, bail), needs you to wire money now or else...
2. Someone overseas offers you a share in a large sum of money or a payment on the condition you help them transfer money out of their country now (Nigerian scam).
3. Lottery offers you the chance at $200 million, if you buy your ticket by Thursday.
4. Lesser known charity calls after a natural disaster and pleads for your money to help the victims in their time of need.
5. Anti-aging supplement on TV claims to make you young again, but the offer is only good for another 3 hours.
Make Yourself Pitch Proof
So how do you make yourself immune to a pitch that you're hard coded to fall for? How do you avoid the call of the Sirens and Pied Piper's flute?
When you see a picture of a child starving you'll feel sad and want to help. When your financial advisor calls you with a once in a lifetime investment opportunity, you will get excited. So trying to avoid those emotions is not going to happen. But there is a way not to act on those emotions, a simple kryptonite to your impulses.
The trick is to only make a decision once those emotions have disappeared. The best way to do that is to wait. Make a rule that you will never make a decision on the same day that you hear the pitch. Time is the anecdote.
If the pitch is coming from a legitimate source, but you don't understand the request, ask for help from a family member. But never, ever, part with your money without knowing why.
If someone insists you make a decision on the spot, that's a serious red flag. Walk away. If it's over the phone, don't be afraid to hang up. You don't owe a telemarketer any time. None. Zero.
Remember, this golden rule. You were fine before you heard the pitch. Life was good. You'll be fine after you walk away from it as well.