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Why Do People Fall for Scams?

by Miranda Marquit

Whenever we hear about a new scam, or hear about how someone has fallen for a scam, we shake our heads and wonder how anyone could be so stupid. However, there are plenty of scams out there, and many of them are fairly sophisticated. And, of course, there are other factors at work, and these can cloud anyone’s judgment, no matter how smart you are.

Here are some of the reasons that people might fall for scams:

Really, Really Want to Get Rich Quick

Why do people fall for scams?

Why do people fall for scams?

One of the biggest reasons people fall for scams is when they let a desire for money cloud their judgment. It doesn’t even have to to a case of greed clouding judgment. Sometimes you badly want the money to pay off debt, or you feel like the right “business opportunity” will help you improve your lifestyle. No matter the reason, though, the lure of quick money, or easy money, or a “system” that allows you set it and forget it, can cloud your judgment since you are so focused on getting the money and “fixing” your problems.

Of course, sometimes it really is greed. You think that it really is possible to earn lots of money without putting in the work, or having patience.

Want to Believe It’s True

There are a number of scams that are too good to be true. However, when we really want something to be true, we can make poor money decisions and be taken in by a scam. You might want to believe that it’s possible to fix your credit immediately, or that the guy showing up promising to re-do your roof in one day is totally honest. While not everyone is perpetrating a scam, you do need to be careful. As much as you would like to believe that you qualify for a surprisingly huge tax credit, it probably just isn’t true, and you need to be on your guard.

You Trust the Information Source

Finally, it can be possible to be taken in if you trust the information source. One of the ways that scammers dupe even the smartest is by posing as a legitimate company. The Better Business Bureau recently found that its good name was being used to get personal information from scammers. During tax time, there are a number scams related to refunds. You think you are receiving an email from the IRS telling you that your refund is being held up for some small reason, and you are asked to go to a site and enter personal information (the IRS won’t do this via email, though).

Another issue is that you might trust an “inside” tip from a friend or family member. You trust the source, and decide to throw in. And, while this trusted source may not be trying to scam you, he or she might be fellow-victims, and you could all end up in trouble together.

It’s important to be vigilant, and to be careful about the people you trust — especially with your money and personal information.

What other reasons are there that people fall for scams?

Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos


Published or updated March 15, 2012.
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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Julie @ Freedom 48

If it’s too good to be true – it’s probably a scam. I think so many people fall for scams because they WANT to believe it.

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2 Jeff Crews

I try to be very careful when it comes to certain opportunities. I am sure to do all my research and here people’s reviews before I make my decision. For this reason, it sometimes takes me a little while to make a decision. However, I believe that has kept me from getting scammed.

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3 eJean1981

My brother died a year ago, leaving a wife and two teenage children. My sister-in-law recently received correspondence asking her to deposit a certain check. She said it was clear that the scammer had obtained information about the family from my brother’s obituary. Some people have no shame.

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4 Jeremy @ Modest Money

A lot of scammers just know how to play off people’s emotions and have absolutely no conscience. They target a specific emotion where they know a person will act in haste. Since I have been doing work online for a while I’m just naturally skeptical of anything that looks a little off or unreasonably good offers.

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5 Steven Doyle

Take a look at the latest scamming tactics being used by collection agencies all over the nation. They call up debtors, threaten them with check fraud or wire fraud, threaten them further with law suits and jail time and finally when the person on the other end of the line is sweating bullets and shaking in his boots, the collection agent will say something like “We might consider your case and drop the charges if you make a payment of $$$$ by the end of the business day”

The debtor is so relieved by this one bit of good news that he doesn’t think twice about shelling out the cash (and in doing so he also divulges his credit card number) and walks away feeling relieved. 3 days later, he gets another call with the guy saying the same thing and he is left flabbergasted and short of money.

Con artists and scammers also play on the average person’s innate fear of the legal system to dupe then into parting with their hard earned money.

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