Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time Pressure, Propaganda, and Scam

Time pressure is one of the most effective tools in advertising, so it's no wonder why many scams incorporate time pressure as well.

Infomercials are the best candidate to demonstrate time pressure. You've seen infomercials, those 1 hour programs where they sell you this product,

"free gift to the first 500 callers"

"call now and get free upgrade to express shipping, and get bonus accessories!"

"this is a limited time offer! call now!"

And the most often used time pressure tool? A countdown clock, like this one on Groupon:

Time pressure alone is not going to sell anything. It simply adds a sense of urgency, like "I'm about to miss out!"  It is used on top of other persuasion techniques to force a "tip over", the final step off the cliff, the straw that broke the camel's back... so to speak.

And the best scams often incorporate time pressure as a part of their scheme.

A "grandpa scam", for example, use the urgency of "I need money now help me!" to push you into action.

A "mystery shopper" scam, on the other hand, use the urgency of "she really needs the money back or she's going to lose her job" idea.

In a "speaker scam", a relatively public person was approached to speak at a certain place as a "last minute replacement", with pretty good speaking fee if he shows up. If he would just hand over some processing fees to pay off the problems... Yep, scam. Urgency is more subtle... as the speaking engagement is allegedly just in a few days and they need your commitment now... by sending them money.

There's also "this opportunity is short-lived and we need to pounce now", and "this is our chance to get in on the ground-floor before it make it big".

Ponzi schemes love limited time offers.

Ad Surf Daily's Andy Bowdoin often do recruitment drives where he offered 50% bonus or even 100% bonus if people signed up with him right at the meeting and hand over a lot of money (thousands, tens of thousands of dollars) to join his Ponzi scheme, marketed as Internet ad viewing.

I can't confirm this right now, but I'm pretty sure that Zeek Rewards did something similar, giving "bonus bids" at certain times. I'll have to research that.

Time pressure is the final clincher in the 3-part action plan of any scam, known as tease, please, and seize. As you can guess, tease and please are just the warm up. Time pressure is part of the "seize" step where you are pressured into making a hasty decision without all the critical thinking and without all the facts.


So how do you avoid making hasty decisions?

Simply accept the fact that sometimes it's better to be safe than sorry.  Some things that *sound* like a great deal often are not, even if they offer you "double" the usual incentives. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.  If they are making extraordinary claims, then they should WELCOME inquiries and investigation into them, rather than push you into committing now. Avoid the hard sell.

Ah, but the scammers anticipating this as well. They will tell you things like "you think too much!"  "you have analysis paralysis!"  "you have too much negativity!"  "you're not ready to be rich like us" and so on. In that case, you should definitely run away as fast as you can. Any one resorting to schoolyard insults is not someone you want to be on top of you in an organization.

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