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Why Do We Keep Falling For Scams?

Why Do We Keep Falling For Scams?
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You get a call saying you’ve won a new car. All you have to do is pay a small processing fee. (Sweepstakes Scam)

The IRS sends you an urgent email, saying you owe back taxes. To resolve the situation, click the link in the message and enter your payment information. (Tax Scam)

The phone rings, and the person on the other end sounds like your grandson. There’s an emergency, and he needs you to wire money immediately. (Grandparent Scam)

Things are going well with the pretty Russian girl you met online. She’s ready to marry you, but she can’t get to the U.S. unless you send her money for travel. (Dating Scam)

This is just a sampling of the types of scams people succumb to every day. Scams like these are not new. They’re recycled and updated as new technology comes out, new government programs are launched and new trends take off in popular culture. Reading them here, they may seem like obvious rip-offs. But thousands of people continue to fall for them.

You’re a savvy, educated person. You might think you’re too smart to get scammed. You may be thinking, “That could never happen to me!”

Here’s why it could.

The Lake Wobegon Effect

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” We’ve all heard this before, and it’s correct. But some people look at it differently when opportunities come along. They think they’re special. For them, “it’s too good to be true for everyone else, but not me – because I’m exceptional.” They’re overconfident and overestimate their ability to detect fraud. They believe they’re in control of the situation.

According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, these people are caught up in the “Lake Wobegon” effect, “… where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” They misjudge the probability that things could go badly because they believe they’re superior.

Act Now!!

It’s known as a Call to Action. It’s been used in marketing and sales for years. Convincing someone that they must do something right now – in order to take advantage of fabulous opportunity – is a proven technique. That’s why salespeople use it … and that’s why crooks do, too.

When you hesitate, con artists might appeal to your emotions: “Think about what this means to your family.” Or, they’ll say, “this is a one-time offer.” These high pressure tactics are a giveaway that something is wrong. You should always be able to sleep on it, whether it’s the deal of a lifetime or not.

Gut Factor

Most people who’ve been scammed later say that they had a niggling feeling, a flash of doubt that they wrote off. That’s not surprising since we’re biologically programmed to recognize and avoid danger.

But, rather than honoring their intuition, they dismissed the gut feeling that something was wrong. For various reasons, we don’t always trust the little voice inside us, warning that something’s wrong. If you’re like that, figure out why. That little voice is usually right on the money. Learn to listen to it if you want to keep yours.

Considering most of us think probably we’re above average, we all have the potential to be ripped off.

So what can we do to stay safe?

  • Scammers thrive on creating a false sense of urgency. Don’t give them any money until you’ve verified that the offer – or emergency – is real.
  • Be aware that wiring money is like sending cash. It’s virtually impossible to cancel the transaction or trace the funds.
  • Check things out before committing. Research the person or the business. Only give to established charities.
  • Talk to your doctor before you buy health products or invest in the “latest, greatest” pill.
  • Make sure your antivirus is up to date on your computer
  • Sleep on it. Don’t make a poor decision in the heat of the moment.
  • Listen to your gut. If things seem fishy, they are.
  • Investments, by nature, are risky, so don’t trust anyone who tells you they have a “sure thing.”
  • Remember: Although you’re a wonderful person, you’re just as susceptible to fraud as anyone else.

If you or a loved one have been ripped off, contact your state or local consumer protection office.

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