Psychology of a Sucker

P.T. Barnum said there was one born every minute. I think he underestimated. But then, I am a bit of a cynic.

So what defines a sucker? What characteristics do people have in common, who get sucked into fraud, scams, get rich quick schemes, and all those dishonest propositions that take your money and fail to deliver the implied promises?

I’ve been scambusting for more than 10 years. I’ve investigated, reviewed, and reported many scams. I’ve been brutally honest in exposing near-scams – you know, those half-lies that aren’t exactly illegal, but aren’t ethical either.

In that time, I’ve learned a lot about the makeup of people who perpetuate those scams. And I’ve learned a lot about the kind of people who fall for them. They pretty much fall into two categories:

1. The ignorant. I mean truly inexperienced and uneducated about business, the internet, human nature, etc. It takes the average person a year or two of exposure to such things to really figure out what the warning signs are that something should be avoided, just like moving to a new town and not knowing where the slums are. There is hope for these people, they will probably gain wisdom and learn to avoid slumming it online.

2. The greedy. People who are willing to let their greed overpower their common sense. This group of people are the reason why internet marketing empires, resale rights products, Forex trading with eGold, mlm companies without a viable product, illegal gifting scams, and a gazillion other online establishments continue to flourish. They live by the motto, “It couldn’t hurt to try it, it just might work.”, and they tend to get scammed over and over with an unending parade of nearly identical cons, with only one or two facets that are different – the greedy person reasons that if one or two of the immaterial facets are changed, that somehow, it is different than the last scam that bit them, and they ignore the fact that it is build on the same shady and rotten foundation. There is less hope for this group – wisdom has a harder time triumphing over greed than it does over mere ignorance.

See, a greedy person KNOWS the thing they are reading is too good to be true. They KNOW it has a catch. That little voice in the back of their head TELLS then that it is wrong, but they ignore it. They ignore it because they WANT. They want the promised pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, even though they KNOW leprechauns are not real. So they spend their days chasing rainbows and illusions, and paying for the privilege, instead of telling the scammers exactly what they can do with their pressure sales pages and their “limited time offers”.

I heard a line in a movie I saw years ago. “You can’t cheat someone unless they’re lookin’ to cheat you first.” I wondered at that. And then it made sense. The card sharp could cheat a table full of men, because they figured they could put one over on him and get his money. He let them think that, just long enough to take THEIR money.

And so it is with scammers. They lead you on, let you think you are going to get something for more than it is worth, or that just this ONE time, the laws of common sense won’t prevail, or that the illegal thing they want to rope you into isn’t illegal enough for you to get caught.

In fact, this characteristic of greed, and the propensity for greed to overpower common sense is something that scammers count on. They make a living on poor choices of other people – and they count on the fact that most greedy people, once taken, won’t confess it to anyone else, out of embarrassment. Or in some instances, because they knew it was illegal or bordering on it. So the scammer gets away with it, and goes on catching other greedy flies in their spider web, because the flies that have been caught are too embarrassed to warn the prospective victims.

Now, while scams can only exist when the world has plenty of greedy prospective victims, the scams are created and perpetrated by people who are also greedy – but they are not only willing to let their greed overpower their common sense, they are willling to let it overpower their morals and scruples. They are willing to actively take advantage of people, or even actively harm them, in order to fill their pockets. The only kind of people who can make money at it for any length of time, are those who are completely ok with taking someone else’s money and not giving what was promised in return. Sadly, some people seem to progress from scammed, to scammer. Greed eventually degrades them.

The best protection anyone has against getting scammed, is to not let their greed get in the driver’s seat. Keep common sense firmly behind the wheel. That is also your best protection against becoming a scammer – because greed is a poor master, and common sense doesn’t like dishonesty, so it will steer you away from becoming something dishonorable.

If enough people did that, the scams and sucker traps would go away. But since the world seems to repopulate itself with suckers at a phenomenal rate, it is up to you and I to protect ourselves against the spiders, and to keep raising a warning voice to the flies.

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