Are you a glass-half-full sort? Well, scammers love you
Research has revealed that people who see the world through rose-tinted glasses are most susceptible to scams
Optimists – those who see the glass as half-full – are most likely to fall victim to mass marketing scams.
Otherwise known as mass marketing fraud, it uses mass communication methods, like telephones, the Internet, mass mailings, TV and radio, to take money or information from unsuspecting victims.
It represents one of the most rapidly growing crimes, costing billions of dollars worldwide and exacting an enormous toll on individuals who fall prey to sophisticated techniques.While nobody is outright immune, a new study by US researchers has found that people who focus on the benefits of the large sums of money promised by these scams are more likely to ignore the risks. Thus, they fall prey to fraud.
The study – published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology – also shows that less educated consumers are more likely to be susceptible to the lure of a large reward.
But being charged an activation fee helped reduce intention to comply with the scam.
The analysis of over 500 adults sampled over the course of two experiments was designed to identify the underlying psychological factors involved in responding to mass marketing scams.In the study, based on 25 real scam solicitations that were successful at hooking the victim in the US, “the chance to win a large sum of money influenced the perceived risks of participation” – including the possibility of identity theft – and further persuasive tactics by scammers.
The researchers found the most important factor in deciding whether to respond was the person’s assessment of the risk versus the potential reward.The study also explored how activation fees might impact interest in responding to the scams. When the study added a requirement that people pay an activation fee, nearly a quarter of the subjects still had an interest in responding.One of the researchers, Yaniv Hanoch, a professor at University of Plymouth’s School of Psychology, said: “While prior research models have explored primarily the way the marketing ploys are presented to consumers, the recent research delves into the individual differences of the scam victims themselves.
“On the one hand, consumers are for the most part able to recognise potential scams. But the lure of the prize is largely driving individuals’ behaviours, leading many of them to discount the possible risks. The sentiment seems to be: ‘After all, what harm can be done by just responding to a letter?’
Kalyani Pillay, head of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), urged consumers “to be sceptical of any investment that seems too good to be true”, particularly Ponzi or pyramid schemes.
“This is to prevent being deceived by so-called investments that promise quick, high and guaranteed returns.
“Scammers will go to great lengths to get victims to invest in these schemes through the use of social engineering tactics. They will even come up with convincing, fabricated statistics to make their offer look attractive, so always treat these with suspicion,” Pillay warned.