Often, hucksters prey on the consumer’s desperation, which is why it’s no surprise that the No. 1 rip-off (at least between 2011 and 2012)) was bogus products promising weight loss.
VICE (vice.com) interviewed psychologist Maria Konnikova about how cyber cons are so successful—even with the most ridiculous sounding bait (Nigerian prince, anyone?).
The bait becomes more attractive when the target is receiving an influx of cyber attention. Sad to say, this trips up a person’s rationale, making them susceptible to the huckster’s plan.
Konnikova is quoted as stating, “Few things throw us off our game as much as so-called cognitive load: how taxed our mental capacities are at any given moment.” She explains that people are vulnerable when the con artist hits them up with their scheme while the victim is distracted with Twitter, texting, etc. In short, it’s cognitive overload.
Konnikova is the author of the book, “The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It, Every Time.” In the book, she mentions that victims such as the U.S. Navy were too humiliated to prosecute the crooks who conned them. She tells vice.com: “Because admitting it [getting rooked] would mean admitting you’re a sap.”
And in this day of rapidly evolving cyber technology, the huckster’s job is becoming easier, what with all sorts of pathways he can snag a victim, such as dating sites and pop-up ads warning your computer has been infected. But something else is on the crook’s side: the false sense of security that all this techy mumbo jumbo gives the common user—who hence lets down their guard.
And despite all the parodies and mockeries surrounding the so-called Nigerian prince scam (aka 419 scam), it’s still out there in full force and effect. Look how technology has made it swell. And it will continue evolving as long as people want something for nothing. Why else would the Powerball swell to over 1.3 billon. “The basic contours of the story won’t change,” Konnikova tells vice.com.
Another factor is that some people equate online with credibility: “It’s online so it must be legitimate,” is the mindset. According to this mindset, the Loch Ness Monster must really exist, since there are many stories about it online. Despite how irrational this mindset is, scammers know that many people think this way and will design their ploys to look even more legitimate (with creative layouts, slogans, links, etc.).
Though it takes skill to be a successful huckster, they can’t get the job done without the victim being “vulnerablized” by cognitive overload.