Most effective scams prey on emotion, says Nashville detective

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s never been easier to perpetrate a scam than it is right now. A scam artist can steal your money from literally anywhere in the world using a computer and the Internet.

News 2 met with a grizzled police detective who said there are countless scams out there, but the most effective ones prey on a person’s emotions.

Tom Sexton has investigated thousands of scams over 30 years.

According to the longtime detective, cyber scamming has intensified in recent years, which he says is a combination of the Internet and social media.

“You have more information available to scam artists,” he explained. “It is easier. You can make calls now from any part of the world for nothing.”

Sexton said the elderly are a common target, but all of us are susceptible to what he calls “emotional terrorism.”

Tom Sexton (Photo: WKRN)

“If I scare you bad enough, will you pay me? If I tell you I love you sincerely enough, will you pay me? They are making hundreds of thousands of dollars based on emotional responses from people,” he said. “They mine that information from social media, Facebook, Twitter and certainly you are going to pay for little Johnny’s hospital stay in Mexico or get Johnny out of a jail for a crime he didn’t commit. They are preying on people’s emotions.”

Sexton told News 2 he is seeing the emotional scam on a daily basis, and it’s not only here locally.

“My police officer friends in Russia are seeing the same thing and it is mostly because of technology,” he said. “People fall for it because they do their homework and they target people who don’t realize this much information on the Internet. To a criminal, with the Internet it can tell you where you live, what type of car you drive, what you paid for your home. And I can do this on a Google search.”

Sexton said as the scams evolve, the biggest thing police can do is educate people.

“Not with 30 second clips on the local news, but what we have to do is reach out to social organizations and churches and seniors and start educating people,” he said.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the majority of scam artists are working from outside the United States, making prosecution almost impossible.

The FBI advises if someone asks you for money, be cautious, slow down, call the police and don’t make a rash decision. You should also be wary if the caller is from overseas.

News 2’s CrimeTracker: ScamBusters begins at 4 a.m. Thursday and continues in every newscast.