Just hang up. We hereby give everyone licence to be downright surly and rude – in the face of cold-calling fraudsters. It’s so difficult to get them off the scent when they are on to you.

Just hang up. Sure, you could try to prepare with a “refusal script” on what you’ll say when they try one of the persuasion tactics below, but it seems unnecessary when so many rules of human decency went out the window when your phone rang.

Just hang up. There is no point in saving, investing, and otherwise getting ahead if it’s all lost to your friendly neighbourhood fraudster (who may happen to be halfway around the world).

This week is Fraud Awareness Week, so let’s take a moment to look at a scammer’s arsenal of psychological weaponry that will sooner or later get pointed at us in their attempt at robbery: the cold call.

Scammers’ top persuasion tactics

  • “You’re going to make so much money.”
    These “phantom riches” are classic – the dangling opportunity to get rich quick. A popular one these days is one where you have to pay to play: put in money to release fake inheritances. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • “You can trust me.”
    As we’ve seen with fake websites and even fake authorities, fraudsters will do anything to prove they’re legit. In your eyes, they hope to be seen as a credible source.
  • “I’m your friend.”
    Scammers have their charm, and they’re not afraid to use it. Even over the phone they manage to strike up a “friendship” lightning fast, and that trust is developed over a series of calls until your guard has been let down.
  • “Everyone is doing this.”
    This is sometimes called “social consensus”, and it dials up the FOMO – it preys on our “fear of missing out”. The predators know this can push us towards doing things we don’t really want to.
  • “Hurry, you’ll miss it.”
    Like social consensus above, a sense of “scarcity” has also been shown to increase FOMO and urge us into rushed decisions. “Limited offers” and the like are only there to get us moving on them faster.
  • “You’re getting such a good deal.”
    Here’s the thing: you’re not. But by using “comparison” against us, scammers point out that others got something less – making us think we’re getting more.

If any of these sound overly familiar, here’s where to report a scam to our friends at Netsafe.

Studies on the cold calling phenomenon show the numbers trending upwards. Take for example the 900,000 scam calls that police tracked from a single number just in June and July alone.

We’ll need to be ready for an onslaught of calls over the years to come. Will you be ready with a response when the scammers come calling?

Like we said, just hang up.


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