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The Science
Behind Scams


We’d all like to think that we’d be able to spot a scam.

However, scams and fraud (especially related to finances) can affect anyone, no matter how savvy you think you are.

That’s why we’ve partnered with Zelle to put together resources to help you learn more about financial scams and fraud, including information about common tactics that scammers use and ways you can avoid falling for them.

Here, you can explore videos explaining the psychology behind common scams, listen to soundbites from experts, and take a quiz to test your knowledge. Read on for more — it could help save you from a future scam.

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Tricks of the Trade

Think you’d never fall for a scam? Think again. Some of the most common scams take advantage of our most basic psychological needs and instincts, catching consumers unawares and costing them billions of dollars each year. That’s why understanding the psychology behind these tactics can help you avoid them. 

Tip No. 1

Don’t give out personal info over the phone

Keep in mind that scammers can be sneaky with caller ID — and even make it look like your bank is the one calling. In 2022, one in three Americans report having fallen victim to a phone scam, with an estimated $39.5 billion lost in the last 12 months. Point being: never give out confidential information over the phone, especially if you’re unsure who’s on the other end of the line.

Tip No. 2

Take a beat before sending money

So many scams happen because we give into a feeling of urgency, whether it’s in the form of finding a seemingly great deal on a rare item or securing your next dream apartment. Before you hand over your cash, take a moment to think about if it’s too good to be true — because it probably is.

Tip No. 3

Only send money to those you trust

When it comes down to it, the money you’re sending via direct payment methods like Zelle is essentially cash, and should be treated with the same consideration. Make sure you know who you’re sending money to, especially since you can’t get it back once it’s been sent. Always double check you have the person’s correct information before the transaction, and that you actually know who they are.

Think Fast!

It can take a second to fall for a scam – these videos take 15 to show you how to spot one.

Scam Spotting

We’re all fascinated by watching and reading about scammers who have gotten away with wild grifts. However, when it comes to getting swindled by a scammer ourselves, it’s not so much fun. And it’s even harder to get out of a scam once a criminal has your information.

Unfortunately, scams are much more common than you’d think. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021 (an increase of more than 70 percent over the previous year), with imposter scams and online marketplace scams as the top offenders.

So the question is, can you spot a scam? Take the quiz below to test how you’d react in a few fraudster-favorite scenarios — and keep your newfound knowledge handy so you don’t get fleeced IRL.