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Common Fraud Myths Debunked

Think you are too smart to fall for a scam? Think again, says AARP fraud expert Doug Shadel, author of Outsmarting the Scam Artists: How to Protect Yourself from the Most Clever Cons. Shadel and a team of scientists spent ten years interviewing dozens of convicted con men and thousands of fraud victims. The result is a fascinating peek inside the con artists' playbook that debunks some common myths about who is taken and why.

I am too smart to fall for a scam - Shadel says falling for a scam has little to do with intelligence because con artists appeal to the emotional part of the brain, which can swamp out any attempt to think rationally. Cons call it getting the victim "under the ether." This may explain why many victims are actually more financially literate than the general population, yet still get taken.

You can't cheat an honest man - Actually, yes you can. Greed and the promise of easy money clearly play a role in some scams, but it is only one of many persuasion tactics in the scam artists' playbook. Shadel describes which tactics work best and why.

Women are more emotional than men and therefore are more vulnerable to scams - The cons report that just the opposite is true. They say men are much easier to manipulate emotionally and are therefore prime targets, especially for investment scams. The book describes why con artists believe men are so vulnerable to emotional appeals.

If it sounds too good to be true, it is - Research shows that this common prevention mantra is ineffective. It turns out that many victims are able to recite this phrase after they have been taken. Shadel explains why it doesn't work.

There is nothing you can do to stop people from losing money to scams - Shadel describes a number of innovative fraud prevention programs that have been scientifically tested and shown to increase an individual's resistance to fraud.

You can sign up for the Fraud Watch Network at or by calling 800-646-2283. By joining the Fraud Watch Network, you'll receive alerts and notifications about new scams as they emerge.

File a consumer complaint with the Attorney General's Office at