How To Recognize Scams That Target The Hard Of Hearing

How To Recognize Scams That Target The Hard Of Hearing

The deaf and hard of hearing are more and more targeted by scammers. Here are their methods and some knowledge to recognize scams.

A disturbing trend has emerged. Using increasingly complex methods, scammers are attempting to defraud yet another vulnerable group — the hearing impaired.

Fraud is, if nothing else, a crime of opportunity. And as has been evidenced on more than one occasion, fraudsters don’t particularly care who they victimize or the dire straits in which their victims are so often left.

Fraudsters are after a payday, and they don’t particularly care who they hurt to get it.

Case in point, over the past few years, there’s been a disturbing uptick in the number of scammers targeting the deaf and hard of hearing.

The Deaf Lottery Scam

As noted by news agency Courant, this most recently took the form of a “deaf lottery”. Unfortunately, that particular fraud campaign is only the tip of the iceberg.

Even more disturbing is the case of Donna Summerlin, a deaf woman reported to have scammed people around the world out of about $1.2 million, according to The York Dispatch.

Summerlin acted as a ‘money mule’ or go-between for an advance-fee scam similar to the one described above.

Victims were told that they’d won a lottery or been given a special grant, but first must pay taxes and fees.

Deaf Charities Scam

Fraudulent emails posing as well-known deaf charities and advocacy groups have also grown increasingly common.

They may promise the recipient access to an exclusive lottery for a small down payment. Or perhaps they’re simply asking for donations.

The Teletypewriter Scam

Scammers have also targeted both businesses Teletypewriter (TTY) technology, reports Scam Detector.

Although TTY systems are intended as a tool for helping the hearing impaired communicate over the phone, criminals have begun using them as a go-between.

Messages entered into these systems are sent via a specially-trained operator, who by law is unable to identify a call’s origin.

It is, in other words, a perfect tool for scammers. That, in turn,  may reduce accessibility as businesses become hesitant about the risks of TTY systems.  The criminals, naturally, don’t care.

One of the most prominent examples of this scam involves a fraudster contacting a business via TTY, informing the owner that they’ve heard glowing reviews.

Usually, they’ll ask to ship something to the business, pay for services in advance, or make a large order.

Eventually, however, they’ll inform the owner that their credit card isn’t working. The shipping company or payment processor rejected it.

Instead, they offer to send the owner a large check. The owner can keep part of that check as a down payment and send the remainder back to the scammer.

Scammers Don’t Care You’re Struggling

The scams described above are nothing new. They’re the same tried-and-true tactics that criminals have been using for ages.

The only difference is that they’re specifically targeting the hard of hearing, and at a time when many hearing-impaired individuals are struggling more than ever.

The good news is that protecting yourself against these scams only requires a bit of mindfulness and foreknowledge.

How To Recognize Scams

Here are a few indicators that you might be scammed:

1. If Something Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

If you are required to pay fees before receiving a reward, you’re being scammed. Moreover, a lottery almost always requires you to enter beforehand.

2. Be Mindful Of Cold Emails

Legitimate charities never spam your inbox uninvited. Before donating, always verify that your money is actually going to a charitable organization, and ask for a tax receipt.

3. Recognize Social Engineering

Intimidation and urgency are extremely common tactics used by scammers. They play on a person’s fear of missing out to pressure them into a snap decision.

4. Always Verify

Does an email contain obvious spelling mistakes? Does a link go to a site you don’t recognize?

5. Overpayments Are Never Legitimate

If someone offers to send you a check for more than their order is worth, they’re trying to defraud you.


Scammers ultimately prey on ignorance, naivete, and vulnerability. Knowledge, in other words, is their worst enemy.

Share this information with your loved ones, both within the deaf community and outside. You might just help someone recognize scams and save their financial future doing so.

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