Taking you for a ride: Understanding scams and how to avoid it

It's more than just plain lying.

In recent weeks, there has been a spate of cases where individuals saw their identity, money, or heart stolen either through simple or complex methods. However, it all goes by the same name – scams.

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Taking you for a ride: understanding scams and how to avoid it | weirdkaya
Don’t let your possessions be someone else’s catch (Source: Economic Times )

Whenever we read of someone losing their possessions to a complete stranger in such a gullible manner, our first response is to shake our heads in disbelief and wonder aloud how these people fell for such tactics without batting an eyelid. But before we pass judgment, we have to understand that emotional manipulation is at the very core of scams – something that everyone is susceptible to.

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Taking you for a ride: understanding scams and how to avoid it | weirdkaya
Online romance is another common scam tactic. (Photo: Allegan Credit Union)

According to psychology professor Robert Cialdini, here are five psychological reasons why people fall for scams often:

1. “I help you, you help me”

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Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, scammers often use and abuse the kindhearted nature of some for their own benefit. The human nature is wired in a sense where we’re obliged to return the favor when someone does something for us. Known as “enforced indebtedness”, scammers will, for example, offer their victim an exclusive opportunity where he/she can invest their money in a lucrative company and reap tons of money in the future. This is cause them to continue listening to the bogus scheme and eventually part with their money.

2. Monkey see, monkey do

There is research which shows that some believe if others do something, it must be fine for them too. This is particularly helpful for scammers, especially when done through a phone call. Oftentimes, they will pressure or ‘guilt-trip’ their victims by saying things like, “80% of our customers have become rich through this program”, or “Don’t disappoint your loved ones by missing out on this scheme!”.

3. Sedikit-sedikit, lama-lama jadi bukit

While this Malay proverb is usually referred to consistent effort, the same principle can be applied to scams too. Scammers will take aim at their victim’s sense of self-esteem and inner perception that they are committed and polite individuals to their advantage. All they need to do is to start off with a friendly “How are you doing?” to get the ball rolling. Once they’ve captured your attention, they will proceed to ask more personal questions like which banking account do you use etc. They do this because they know the victim would reply out of courtesy. By then, they would’ve known too much until it’s too late to take action.

Taking you for a ride: understanding scams and how to avoid it | weirdkaya
(Screenshot: KL Foodie)

4. “I don’t want to be OOTL!”

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Let’s admit it. None of us like to be left out of something exciting, and scammers recognize this all too well. Proven to be highly effective via phone calls, scammers will tell their victim that there’s a huge event coming and presents it in such a manner where the victim would be hesitant to cut the call, no matter how outrageous it sounds as they don’t want to be left behind.

5. “B-but he/she sounded so genuine!”

No matter how ‘hardened’ your heart may be, all it takes are the right words to break that shell. Again, the human nature is created to be drawn to people who share common interests or are willing to listen to us. Scammers will often do a quick background check of their targeted victims and use the information to craft their lies in order to quietly extract personal details before making their sweet getaway.

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Taking you for a ride: understanding scams and how to avoid it | weirdkaya
Reverse version of Robin Hood? (Photo: Alvarez Technology Group)

Now that you’ve known the psychological aspects of scams, here are some practical tips to avoid being a victim of one:

– If it sounds too good (or bad) to be true, it probably is

– Do a background check of the caller/online friend

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– Do not click on suspicious links, mails, or pop-ups

– Do not respond to calls asking for your personal information

– Update your passwords regularly

– Update your social media account settings once in a while

– When in doubt, call the authorities

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to recognize and avoid scams effectively! Share this with your family and friends to keep them aware!

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Sources: The Conversation, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission

Editor: Sarah Yeoh

Taking you for a ride: understanding scams and how to avoid it | weirdkaya
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