The Psychology of Scammers

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There is a lot of evidence about scammers and how they operate.

There are scammers that operate a number of different scams but many seem to find one that works for them then stick to it.

The many Nigerian 419 scammers are an example of sticking to the same game plan. They tempt people with a very large sum of money – usually in the millions and tell a highly improbably story of why the money is available. But with such a large amount of money as the enticement then for many people that overcomes their disbelief and they pay the advance fee which might be called a processing fee or release fee or Police charge or whatever.  The scammer gets the advance fee and of course the large amount of money does not exist.

Most people know of theses scams, so why do the scammers stick to it instead of changing?

They enjoy the challenge, they stick to what they know, why change your plan when you can make the current one work? There are always more people to scam.

There are financial scams so complex that even few experts can understand how they work and at the other end of the spectrum are the incredibly simple scams such as sending out spam emails saying in a lot more words

“We have a large sum of money in your name and will be happy to send this too you once we verify your identity. Please  provide a photograph of your passport or driving licence, your full name and address and contact details”

Some people will answer this with the information which the scammer can then sell on to other scammers.

Are the scammers motivated just by money?

No, many do chase the money, but  for a lot it’s more about the game – winning, showing superiority over the victims who fall for the scams, the badge of honour of taking money from people and giving nothing in return. For some its excitement – getting away with illegal activities and not getting caught. For some, it’s all they know to do.

Many scam messages are childishly inept – poor grammar, spelling mistakes, odd use of words, poor quality layout etc. For some this may be genuine mistakes .e.g  a poor translation from another language but often it is deliberate. The scammers often don’t want to catch people who will realise it’s a scam – they want the most believing and easily conned hence the mistakes to put off anyone who stops to think about the likelihood of the story being true. In this case, implausibility is the scammer’s friend.

Finally, if you get a cold caller trying to scam you, you won’t be able to talk them out of it and you won’t be able to shame them out if it.  Scammers make a clear decision to con people out of money and that’s what they stick to.

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Quick Cash

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An email titled “Little Loans” offering cash within 15 minutes.

“Get an instant loan decision today up to £2,500”

This is from uk-prizes.com which is not a money lender.

They are a credit broker meaning they find “victims” willing to pay extortionate interest rates to get quick cash and pass their information onto a lender and they get commission from the lender if a credit agreement is taken out by the “victim”.

The legal status of uk-prizes is spelled out in the message and it is a registered trading name of Digitonomy in Cheshire.

I did say extortionate interest rates.

The message says their representative APR is 278% meaning if you borrow £1,000 for a year then you have to pay back almost £4,000.

Sadly this is quite legal and even if a fair number of people can never pay back their loan, the company still makes huge profits on those who do.

A second email arrived the same day from Cashflex.co.uk which again is a trading name of Digitonomy and offers quick cash. This time they claim their representative APR is only 99.9% but further down in the email does say they charge up to 278% APR

This really should be criminal.

Never take money from these kinds of companies.

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How to Keep Your Passwords Safe

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The first point to remember is that a password is only safe if you don’t tell anyone and don’t give it away online.

The second point is that you need more than one password. We all have lots of things we login to that need a password. You should not use the same password for each.

Follow these guidelines

  • Use safe passwords (this means a password that would be extremely difficult for anyone to guess or for a computer to crack quickly). This needs to be at least 8 characters long. Each character you add makes it more difficult for someone to work out.
  • Don’t use actual words unless you add three or more together in a nonsensical way . Avoid birthdays, anniversaries, pet names, TV characters etc.
  • As well as normal letters, you can use upper case letters, numbers and even punctuation marks and symbols in your password.
  • Don’t use sequences of consecutive numbers or letters e.g. 34567 or QWERTY.
  • Use a different password for each site. Once they’ve got your password, scammers will try it on any number of other sites. If the scammers get one of your passwords then that’s all rather than giving them open access to all of your accounts using that same password.
  • Make your passwords easy to remember — but only for you.

How can you do that?

One approach is to change some of the password letters into symbols or numbers.

Another approach is to  use a sentence and then take just the first or last letter of each word and you should end up with a long unintelligible string of letters but you can remember it through the original sentence.

E.g. I take my dog Ferdinand to the park every day for a walk becomes    itmdFttpedfaw

  • Try not to write your passwords down or store them on your computer. If you do need to write something down then give yourself a clue rather than the actual password.

Keep safe.