What Is Scamming?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 March 2020
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The term scamming is slang for defrauding or swindling, and is often used to describe fraudulent Internet business schemes. This type of trickery involves gaining someone else’s possessions or money under false pretenses. While the term is widely used on the Internet, people have been scamming one another in person for hundreds of years. In fact, the elderly have a high risk of being scammed because they are targeted due to their likelihood of having money to spend. Depending on how the scam is undergone, it may be illegal in the country it takes place.

There are thousands of different scams, each one designed to play on a person’s desires, fears, or other emotions. For example, money-making scams promise fast money to solve all a person’s financial woes. A less dramatic scam is one that promises an outcome that seems plausible, like a spray that protects a house roof so that it can last 20 years longer. People are often motivated to make money, save money, or even help relatives in need, but do not pause to investigate the scam because the scammer makes the situation sound urgent. Even if they fall for the scam, sometimes the scammer sticks around to scam again and again.


The history of scamming is a long one, but one of the first documented scammers was called the confidence man. This man approached people on a street and asked if they had the confidence to remove their wrist watches and hand them over. The question was phrased as a challenge, and many people fell for it to prove that they did in fact have the confidence to hand over their watches. Once the confidence man had a watch in hand, he walked away. In this case, scamming relied on the victim’s pride and naivety; he or she would not back down, and did not believe someone would simply walk off with a valuable item in plain sight.

Scamming has become a problem for elderly communities because scammers target older people due to their savings, monthly retirement checks, and valuable possessions. Some scams assume the elderly person has a grandchild. This kind of scam involves calling the elderly person, pretending to be a grandchild or police officer, and asking for money due to an urgent issue. For example, the scammer might say that the grandchild was arrested and needs money to pay fines. Sometimes these scams originate from a different country and the phone number seen is spoofed.


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