Most of us are convinced that we will not fall for scams. A new study finds that this confidence may be misplaced, especially if we look at the world from a specific perspective.
Attitudes and beliefs that determine how people view the world – a concept known as “mental frameworks” – may influence how likely they are to fall prey to a scam, according to a two-year study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, The Better Institute for Business Bureau for Marketplace Trust and the University of Minnesota. .
The researchers identified and interviewed 17 study participants. They came from a group of people who submitted reports using BBB SCAM Tracker, an online fraud reporting tool. Ten of them lost money to the scammers, while seven did not.
In interviews with researchers, some participants shared their experience with scammers who called them “promises of easy money or profitable investments.” Other participants received phone calls from fraudsters acting as IRS agents demanding payment of back taxes.
The researchers also interviewed two people who worked at an offshore call center, who used the IRS scam to defraud hundreds of victims.
The study concluded that four frames of mind – perspectives on compliance, opportunity, intelligence, and order – may influence how we interpret things we hear from fraudsters.
Specifically, researchers have found that people are more likely to lose their money to scams if they have the following beliefs:
- Authority should not be challenged.
- Financial opportunity is a zero-sum game with clear winners and losers.
- The world is organized in a way that rewards good people.
- Asking too many questions can make a person seem clueless.
On an encouraging note, the researchers said that those with opinions that make them more vulnerable to scams are not doomed to become victims, since the meanings people assign to things and experiences can be modified. For example, social psychologists have found that short, simple exercises are often all it takes to change behaviors.
According to the researchers:
“Researchers found that when the subjects of the study had some knowledge of common financial frauds, they were less likely to be defrauded. Those who knew little about the specific fraud presented to them were 80% less likely to participate. Even when they dealt with fraudsters, they were less likely To lose their money by 20% in the end.”
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