Technology has made our lives increasingly efficient and easier. Everything seems just a click away. But this instant and incognito access to everything can have its perks. Especially when it comes to cybersecurity and online scams. Con artists, manipulators, hackers, and scammers have also shifted online making use of the technology to their advantage. Many of us are aware of that sinking feeling in our stomachs when we realize we clicked a link we shouldn’t have. Whether it’s leaking of personal information or money frauds, why is it that even sensible individuals often fall victim to these scams? What tricks and psychological hacks do hackers use that make people so vulnerable? There is a lot of psychology involved in online scams and that’s what we’ll discuss below.
The psychology of online scams
These are some psychological aspects that make online scams so effective.
Relying on emotional responses
Most people are sensible enough to not give in to illogical schemes online. Everyone hesitates a bit before giving their credit card information online to untrusted sources. If some sketchy website promises, they will double your money, by logic you will understand that it is a scam. So, hackers are unlikely to use the logical method to their advantage.
Most hackers and scammers use one primary rule to never do their job logically. They rely on emotions and one of the strongest emotions is fear. When someone’s job or security is at stake, it is difficult to be reasonable to follow the logic and most people give in to fear. Such as they might find out your boss’ credentials and use an email of their name to ask for your personal information. You are more likely to do as you are told by your boss or some higher authority and not deny what he demands without thinking much. Or they could use some family member’s name and call you to inform you that they had an accident and they told them to call you to send money at this address. When emotions come over reason, it makes their job a lot easier. They might also use the factor of obedience by the higher authority to make you comply easily.
Losing sense of logic because of greed is as old as civilization itself. Whether you are rich or poor, greed is something almost everyone possesses. Making money fast is also another factor hackers use to their advantage. You might be contacted by a fake banking website which lures you into thinking that they can invest your money online and return you a bigger amount. Their sales pitches are often too persuasive and people give into their generous investments ignoring necessary measures under the influence of greed that they will get a bigger amount.
Fear of missing out
Scammers often present their schemes in a way that makes you think that the majority of people are participating in it. They put you in a pressurized spot and then to make the decision easier for you, tell you that this amount of people have already signed and are returning for more. To make emotions override logic so you can make a quick decision, they might also use terms such as “limited time offer” to lure you in. When you see that everyone is doing it and that they are supposedly making a lot, you fear missing the chance and invest your money in it too. You let your guard down and think as If others are doing it, it must be ok for me too.
Getting comfortable with you
Scammers present themselves as agreeable and nice people who are working for your favour instead of theirs. They seem likeable and the same as us, so we feel more comfortable with them. This is because working together is an evolutionary trait and it is hardwired in most people’s nature to like those that show similarity and agreeableness. They might first try to be helpful and then out of reciprocity you might help them too. Thus using your good nature against you.
How to protect yourself from these online scams
You always have control over your own actions. You can use the following techniques to protect yourself from fraudsters and manipulators online.
- Be aware that the scams exist and if something feels too good to be true, always consider that it could possibly be a scam.
- See things from a logical point of view. Ask yourself questions regarding their intentions. Why would anyone give you extra money? What will they gain from it? Once you see things rationally, you will understand that it is likely a scam.
- Never blindly trust some email sender’s information, it could be fake, the sender’s information could have been hacked, or it could be an alias. Always confirm some other way if it’s the same person otherwise always decline.
- If some unknown person puts you in a pressurized spot where you have to make the decision now, always ask them that you will let them know later and never make the decision at that instant.
- If anyone ever asks you for remote access to your computer, hang up. Even if they are from a well-known company, understand that no legitimate corporation will ever ask you to give up control of your computer to them.
- Ignore suspicious texts, pop-up windows, links or emails by unknown people claiming to know you.
- Always double check by contacting the person through an independent source if they are asking for details or money.
- If someone threatens to leak any sensitive information they might have, instead of agreeing to their terms, always report to the authorities first.
Understanding how an online scammer might manipulate you is the first step towards protecting yourself. Never let your emotions override your logic and always double-check with the right