Sunday, April 27, 2014

Scam Psychology: What Are YOUR Communication Vulnerabilities?

Scammers are often very good communicators. They can tailor their message for a wide variety of audiences and they are quick in recognizing your particular communication vulnerabilities, and thus, exploit you using those vulnerabilities. To counteract this, you need to know what type of communication vulnerabilities do you have. These are four questions you need to ask. Are you:
  • Idea or evidence?
  • Direct or diplomatic?
  • Think about it or go all in? 
  • Accept a map or blaze your own trail? 
Each of these questions may indicate a communication vulnerability. If you have more than one, you need to beware. If you have 3 or 4 you may be especially vulnerable. You may want to keep score for yourself. 

Are you an Idea person or Evidence person?

Some people are caught up in ideas. As long as they like the idea they could care less about the evidence. It's much like ideology, or as Stephen Colbert put it "Truthiness". Others are more about the evidence, and refuse to commit to an idea until they see enough.

In general, scammers prefer "idea person" as they are much easier to sell to. Once they sell the "idea",  the "idea person" will look for evidence to convince him- or herself.

Scams often involve a nebulous high concept (the "idea") that sounds logical and feasible, but in reality have tons of complexities that most people are not aware of or are impossible to research without being a professional.  The evidence people would want more evidence, while idea people would just accept the idea without further proof.

If you're an "idea" person, add 1 to your score.

Are you a direct person or a diplomatic person? 

Do you prefer cutting straight to the point, or do you prefer a bit more socialization?

Scammers prefer those of you who socialized, as they want to hit you with (real or fake) social proof and exploit various cognitive biases that all people have. They can also distract you with fancy displays and language, bandwagon effect, crowd hysteria, shilling, and other tricks.

Scammers also don't want any "direct" person to ask questions about more evidence. If you are too diplomatic you may never get any evidence, or just enough to convince yourself.

Scams often involve fancy events, elaborate presentations, exotic locations, and so on, where you mingle with people who were already convinced of the "idea" (see above).

If you're a diplomatic person, add 1.

When confronted with decision, do you think about it, or go all in? 

If you are confronted with a decision, do you retreat to think about it, or do you go all in, as if your ego has been challenged, and you are already convinced of your "gut feeling"?

Scammers prefer people who go "all in", "no fear", and so on. Some will even do the "neg" and call you "wussies", "afraid to take risks", and so on.  They don't want you to go home and think about it. They want you to commit now (and hand over your money). They don't want you to go back home and talk with people who don't have your communication vulnerability who will analyze your weaknesses and tell you how those scammers already pushed your buttons.

If you prefer to engage (i.e. "go all in"), add 1.

Do you look for alternate paths, or do you prefer preset plans? 

If you have decided to act, do you take someone else's preset plans, or do you look for alternate plans to get there?

Scammers prefer you to take someone else's plans, because they can SELL YOU that course of action, often "formula for success", "proven path", and so on. Indeed, it could be said that the entire "financial self-help industry" (such as Robert Kiyosaki, Suze Orman, Jim Kramer, and so all do this to a certain extent). The difference is scammers prefer to sell you a lot of nothing, mostly lessons they borrowed from multiple books (with or without attribution), narrated by themselves, priced at hundreds of dollars, and gives you upsell to buy his "exclusive training" for even MORE expensive package.

They don't want you to consider "other paths", such as a more legitimate course of action, like going to school, or seek a financial adviser, or "check with a friend, attorney, CPA, and so on". They want you to commit to THEIR course of action, and they'll give you the plan... for a hefty price.

If you accept other people's path instead of forging your own, add 1.


So how did you do?

0-1: You have almost no communication vulnerabilities. Congratulations! Don't develop any.
2: You can be exploited if you are being preached to by people you know well. Beware!
3-4: You are so vulnerable to pitches you'll be solicited left and right. DANGER! RED ALERT!

All in all, these four communication style choices will dictate how vulnerable are you to certain style of scams, and thus, by recognizing them, you can look out for people trying to exploit those vulnerabilities.

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