Scams and COVID-19: the power of persuasive language


Image by Piotrekswat from Getty Images.

Helping citizens to better understand the power of fraudsters during the pandemic.

With funding from the Burdett Trust, The National Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work and Professional Practice has produced guidance to help community health and social care workers identify and prevent scams in society.

“For many people ‘shielding’ will be required for a considerable amount of time and unfortunately fraudsters know this and they will actively target these very isolated citizens, seeing them as easy targets to make a profit from.” Prof Keith Brown and Dr Elisabeth Carter (May 2020)

Criminals are very clever; it is a misnomer that they are foolish. In reality, they train and perfect the art of using persuasive language to win the trust of their victims in order to defraud them. Akin to domestic violence and coercive control, victims are groomed to believe they are safe or being unreasonable if they wish to take steps to protect themselves.

“The victim makes reasonable decisions within a reality the scammer has manipulated.” Prof Keith Brown and Dr Elisabeth Carter (May 2020)

For COVID-19, criminals play on feelings of panic and fear. This not only creates potential financial hardship but also puts victims unknowingly at risk of catching or transmitting the virus.

Key tactics:

  • Making the communication appear ordinary or official
  • Making the personal feel the need to respond urgently
  • Making requests for secrecy seem normal
  • Making the victim feel as though they are in charge
  • Indirectly or disguising requests for money
  • Reassuring victims by giving them a false sense of security, familiarity and predictability.

Scams can happen to anyone. Once one’s vulnerability is identified it can be exploited. Red flags are disguised and explained away through the grooming process.

At the right time with the right tactics, a scam can seem perfectly reasonable, even expected.

Disguised as an essential service, an act of protection, genuine help or concern, scammers will use COVID-19 to extort money. You are key in spotting these issues and identifying them in the community.

In addition to the key tactics, this guide also includes information around:

  • How to support isolated individuals in their homes
  • How to spot that someone is being scammed and what you should do
  • The five steps to stopping fraud.

Instantly download the full guide for free here.

About The National Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work and Professional Practice
Facebook: @NCPQSW
Twitter: @ResearchPQSW
Instagram: @pqswteam

About The Burdett Trust for Nursing
Facebook: @burdetttrust
Twitter: @burdetttrust
Instagram: @burdettrust

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