About 15 years ago, when I was a university student in Mexico City, I was going to the dentist one day, and I got a text on my phone. It said I had won something and should respond to the text to claim my prize. I was super naïve, and I responded to the text. While sitting at the dentist’s office, I got a call from this guy saying congratulations. I was a winner in some promotions I didn’t even participate in (the first clue, this was a scam).
It was an obvious scam, but I wanted it to be true deep inside me; I had supposedly won a car. To claim the car, I had to purchase a 500 pesos long-distance phone card and give the person on the phone the information on the card. I bought the card and gave the scammer the information. I guess he thought that was easy, so he told me they were working on the prize, and I needed to provide them with another phone card, which I did AGAIN.
At that point, I contacted Movistar, my telephone company, to confirm if there was any promotion because the guy said he was calling from Movistar. They confirmed they did not. The scammer called back and said they were working on my car and I needed another phone card, I told them I had no money, and they asked me if there was something in my house I could pawn to get the money, and when I get my prize, I can replace it.
At this point, I wasn’t even mad at the scammers; I was angry at myself for falling for their scam; I didn’t even make a big deal out of it; I just disconnected, they continued calling back, and I just ignored them. But I got scammed, and that taught me a huge lesson. Sometimes, I get mad at myself when I think about it, but life goes on.
I saw several posts on Facebook this week about scams and people falling for what seems to be apparent scams. I saw someone ask, how is it possible that people are getting scammed and the cons are not even sophisticated?
I will not call out anyone in this post because I do not have the full story about the situation unfolding online in the past few days. But I have some thoughts about why it’s so easy for people to be scammed based on my experience.
- FOMO– The first reason I believe people fall for scams is the fear of missing out. They ask themselves, what if I don’t do what’s being asked me and someone else does it, and they get the “prize”? In my case, I was thinking to myself, what if I don’t give the scammer the phone card information and I miss out on winning a car? That fear of missing out was enough to keep me roped in.
- We Want It Easy– I think people fall for scams because we want things easy; we want an easy life and an easy way out. I thought to myself, all I have to do is send a phone card, and I will get a car; that’s easy. So the prospect of getting things easy in life is another reason we get scammed.
- Optimism Bias– This is a term I learned a few years ago, and I think this is one of the reasons it’s so easy for us to get scammed. We don’t walk around thinking that something terrible will happen to us; if we do, we may never go anywhere or do anything. So when we encounter a blatant scam, we think, nahhh, this person can’t be trying to scam me, so we go with the flow and get scammed in the process.
- Trusting In Authority Figures– When I got scammed, I remember the scammer saying, “Nelson, a director from the ministry of (can’t remember which ministry) will contact you to confirm the prize.” Guess what? Some guy claiming to be the director of the Ministry did call me. I told myself this couldn’t be a scam if the Ministry were involved. But my dumbass didn’t realize the director was calling from the same number as the scammer (see why I can’t be mad at them, lol). We trust people in authority, and that blinds us to obvious scams.
- Scammer Confidence– I couldn’t find a term to represent what I am about to type, so I chose scammer confidence. When I got scammed, the guy on the other end of the phone was so confident and full of charisma; he was “genuinely” excited for me. He didn’t give any hint that this was a scam, and this confidence he exuded was enough to pull me in.
As you go through life, if you think something is a scam, it just might be; educate yourself on how scammers operate. My past Information technology teacher in St Andrew Anglican Secondary School, Mr. Jervis Dabreo, has been for the past year and so publishing content about this topic advising people now not to get scammed. There are a lot of resources; Google search, and Youtube is your friend here. Educate yourself, and don’t get scammed the way I did.