Anyone can be scammed. When we blame victims for being ignorant, we make it easier for scammers to get away with their crimes.

Sharon Osgood just wanted to buy Super Bowl tickets. Shut out during the initial ticket sale, she turned to the secondary market and found a pair of tickets on Craigslist. The seller turned out to be a con artist. Osgood lost nearly $6000.

When she contacted her local news, seeking to warn others, both Ticketmaster and the San Francisco 49ers heard Osgood’s story and stepped forward with complimentary tickets. It was a devastating, embarrassing financial loss transformed into a rare happy ending.

But many didn’t see it that way.

“If you are really dumb enough to wire $6K to someone you don’t know without any protection, you deserve it,” wrote one commenter when The San Jose Mercury News reported Osgood’s story online. They mocked her ignorance and insulted her.

Another scoffed that Ticketmaster and the 49ers weren’t helping a distraught fan; they were rewarding Osgood “for being brainless.”

 

I’d never fall for that.

 

The reaction to this story reflects an undercurrent of denial that’s present whenever we talk about scams. We often distance ourselves from scam victims, framing their misfortune as an issue of personal responsibility and intelligence. We say, he should have known better or that’s why you use common sense. I’m too smart to get scammed.

This is why many people, especially senior citizens, don’t report a scam until it’s too late — if they report it at all.

Pointing fingers at the victim only prevents them from seeking help and draws attention away from the scammer. To fight these crimes, we need to educate ourselves without creating a hostile space.

We also need to acknowledge that anyone can be scammed. Scammers trap their victims by preying on basic human characteristics and exploiting unfamiliar technology. No matter your age, gender, race, income or education level, we all share the same psychological traits. We all have personal or financial information stored online. We’re all at risk.

Here are 5 reasons why anyone can be susceptible to scams:

 

1. Our Basic Emotional Needs Make Us Vulnerable.

For example, we all get lonely and crave romantic companionship. Today, more and more people turn to the Internet to find it. In fact, online dating has become so prevalent that a 2012 study by Drexel University found that 1 in 5 Americans met their spouses on the web.

Scammers seek out the loneliest people on dating sites and woo them with charming fake profiles. They gain the victim’s trust and love slowly over time. Then, they spin an elaborate yarn about why they need the victim to send them a large sum of money. Some victims lose tens of thousands of dollars this way.

 

2. When We Look for Shortcuts, We Might Not See Red Flags.

Our culture can move at a break-neck speed that often breeds impatience. Everyone’s looking for a shortcut or ways to make life easier. That’s why many scammers lure their victims with promises of instant gratification.

We all want convenience and scammers are ready to sell it to us in the form of “Get Rich Quick” schemes, bogus weight loss products and more. When you’re impatient or even desperate, it’s easy to suspend your disbelief about claims that are too good to be true.

 

3. Bogus Scarcities and “Act Now or Miss Out” Tactics Trap Us in Consumer Scams.

Scammers frequently borrow common sales tactics and snare victims with artificial scarcities. In an article for Psychology Today, psychologist and marketer Kit Yarrow describes how certain transactions are difficult to resist. She writes that a perceived scarcity “inspires a fear of ‘missing out’ that we often don’t consciously notice – which enhances the power of our emotional reaction.”

In other words, when we’re rushing to “act now or miss out,” we might not be thinking clearly. That’s how we fall for bait-and-switch scams, accidentally purchase counterfeit goods or wire $6000 to a crook posing as a ticket seller.

 

4. Information Overload Blinds Us to Devils in the Details.

For most of us, our daily lives involve a constant stream of new information to be processed. Our brains can’t keep up with every single email, text message, IM or Tweet that comes our way — to say nothing of the complicated legal jargon in a software Terms of Service agreement.

To cope with the sheer volume of input we receive, we have a tendency to notice certain details while overlooking others. Con artists exploit this in a variety of email impersonation scams and online membership fraud.

Every day, Scambook receives dozens of complaints from consumers struggling with unwanted fees or recurring payments because they missed small details in a contract’s fine print.

 

5. More Internet Equals More Private Information to Steal.

More of our personal and financial information is online today than ever before. With as little as one hacked password, scammers can gain enough data to commit identity theft or wreak havoc with your digital life. But even if you’re not plugged into social media and cloud communication, you’re still exposed.

Most banks, health insurance companies, employers, and even many government agencies store user information digitally. Although generally secure and encrypted, these databases can still be breached. Over 3 million Social Security numbers were considered compromised when the South Carolina Department of Revenue was hacked in late 2012.

 

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that scammers are devious and predatory. When it comes to scams, it isn’t a question of whether people like Sharon Osgood “should have known better.” It’s a question of awareness and education.

At Scambook, we foster a community free of judgment where people can file complaints and gain the knowledge they need to protect themselves. We know that everyone is vulnerable and we believe that no one should ever feel too embarrassed to report that they’ve been scammed.

No one ever deserves it.

 

What do you think?

Have you or anyone you know ever been the victim of a scam? Did you feel like you “should have known better”? Remember, you’re not alone.

Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below for online support from the Scambook community.

 

See Also

Recap: Top 4 Worst Scams of 2013
How Those “One Weird Trick” Belly Fat Ads Scam You
4 Tips That Explain How To Avoid Phishing Scams and Email Spam

4 Responses

  1. Robert Belder

    “Caveat emptor” or “Let the buyer beware”. Regardless of how wrong it is to further victimize a victim, there is a level of personal responsibility that goes along with willfully forking over a good chunk of change to someone you “met” online. I could promise you prime timber land in Florida, that doesn’t make it any more real, no matter how much you want to believe it. If someone harvests random names from a database and you happen to be the unlucky soul that gets hosed, that’s one thing, but if you hand over the cash or info of your own free will, that is completely different and carries a certain degree of culpability. There is an old story of a person that nursed a poisonous snake back to health and kept it for a pet. Long story short, that person got bit and died. Should we blame the snake for being a snake? Are we to believe that this was just a random attack, or does that person carry half the blame for willingly putting their life in harms way? I advocate the latter.

    Reply
    • Seamunky

      I tend to think as you do but you are missing what this piece is about: “We also need to acknowledge that anyone can be scammed. Scammers trap their victims by preying on basic human characteristics and exploiting unfamiliar technology. No matter your age, gender, race, income or education level, we all share the same psychological traits. We all have personal or financial information stored online. WE’RE ALL AT RISK”

      Reply
  2. sillen

    People, stop being so idiotic you need to at start thinking about the action you are making, I mean there are people it happens to without they having the slightes clue it might happen to them because in any case it wouldn’t or couldn’t be their flut. So to the next percentage of NONETHINKS the only time that would you start think it is when you get scammed

    Reply
  3. Helen Day

    I fell for the Western Union scam. Without the help of a manager at Western Union I would have lost $750.00 ,it was only $15.00. Now I have received a letter and check for $998.00 to be a mystery shopper for Premier Universal Management. Looking this up it proved to be another scam…..beware

    Reply

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