Avoid these 10 Scammer Tricks


Many people think they have the wherewithal to prevent bad guys from stealing their personal information or money, but what they may not realize is how scammers take advantage of human psychology to craft clever schemes that prey on victims’ vulnerabilities – especially during challenging events like COVID-19 which may include financial hardship, fear and confusion.

Education is the best way to protect you and your family from these common scam tactics.

A recent study found that 80% of people in the U.S. who are informed about a scam will quickly disengage from it – and of those who do engage at first, 40% will disengage when they recognize the tools scammers use.

If you are unsure about any interaction, you do not have to continue the conversation.  Simply hang up or don’t respond – and instead reach out directly to the business, agency, or financial institution who supposedly contacted you, using their website address, phone number, or email account that you already know to be correct. If you’ve shared a password or security code with the bad guys, change it right away. It’s also good practice to contact us at (580)718-4000 so we can review your account activity with you, and cancel any card or account number you may have shared. Finally, you can report the fraud or scam attempt to government authorities.

Here are 10 common tricks that scammers use to commit fraud. Don’t fall for them:

  1. Creating fake emergencies. Scammers will pretend to represent an official organization (like the IRS) and call, text or email potential victims to demand money on the spot for bogus issues. They will use threatening phrases such as, “Your 401k plan will be frozen,” “Your passport will be seized,” or “The maximum sentence for this crime is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine,” to catch victims off guard and create a sense of urgency to resolve the issue.
  2. Expressing that resistance is futile. Once the scammer has created the emergency and instilled panic, they will reinforce that there is nothing the victim can do to resist the situation. In the case of an IRS scam, they will often tell the victim they must cooperate or else face arrest or fines.
  3. Rewarding cooperation with encouraging and friendly comments. Scammers will also try to play the part of a trusted friend, offering help and a way out of the emergency that would provide immediate relief to the victim. They will often tell the victim that they seem like a good person, so are willing to help them out with this situation.
  4. Not allowing victims to hang up until they pay up. Phone scammers will say it is a one-time opportunity for the victim to take action to avoid risking consequences, and if the victim hangs up the phone, they will not be offered another chance to resolve the matter.
  5. Using official-sounding titles and names for everyday things. Scammers will try to sound impressive, to gain a victim’s trust to pay up. They will fraudulently use official-sounding titles, and drop names for actual merchants and everyday items. Many times, scammers try to get you to transfer your money to a gift card to resolve the fraudulent issue, but refer to that merchant or card as an electronic federal tax payment system or government-affiliated payment processor.
  6. Stating that they are not asking for personal information upfront. Scammers know that asking for personal information right away could raise alarm bells, so they try to put victims’ minds at ease by saying they are not looking to obtain this information, or that they are not looking for an exchange of funds over the phone. However, once they keep you on the phone long enough to fraudulently gain your trust, that’s exactly what they will get.
  7. Signaling to members that they are being recorded. In an attempt to sound legitimate, scammers will tell a victim that the call is being recorded and monitored by the IRS or other official government agency.
  8. Threatening to alert the media. Scammers will go to great lengths to keep suspicious or wary victims on the phone, and even go so far as to threaten to contact the media on behalf of the IRS or other government agency about publishing your case, if the victim does not comply with what is being asked. This is used as a last resort to salvage a conversation that might not be going well for the scammer.
  9. Exploiting engagement. Once the scammer has a victim hooked, they may transfer the call to another fake agent, in an attempt to further legitimize the call. Often, these scamming “call centers” will employ multiple scammers working together to make the initial call, and then close the scam. Scammers are highly organized, with one team responsible for only getting a victim hooked, and another focusing on closing the deal by extracting account information or actual payments. They may say, “Please hold on the line, I am transferring the call to my senior treasury specialist,” or “Thanks for waiting, this is senior officer Matthews from the account department. My badge ID is…”
  10. Insisting that victims keep quiet about special offers. If a scammer offers a special break or discount for immediate settlement of the fraudulent issue, they will often demand that the victim not discuss it with anyone, as that would prevent them from getting the settlement. They may even mention that includes not discussing the issue with their credit union, spouse, or family.

Acknowledgements to David Ver Eecke, Senior Fraud Product Manager, PSCU