Raise your hand if you have received text messages such as these:
“I am a project manager, We are hiring a team to work from home. The daily salary is 6,000 – 8,000 pesos.”
“Online part-time job, no time limit, easy income at 3,000 – 8,000 pesos everyday.”
“Work just 10 minutes/day and be your own boss, use mobile to get 500 -10,000 per day.”
Annoying right? And they come in everyday, sometimes more than once a day. OMG! Check this out. As I write this article, I receive another such text!
Early this week, I read a plea from a Facebook user who said, “Asking for help because it’s depressing and I cannot take it anymore. Na-scam ako dahil sa katangahan ko and I know that it was my fault…May nag-text sa akin about an online job where I can earn money by processing orders. They said there will be tasks at kapag natapos ko lahat ng tasks makakapag-withdraw ako. First, nakapag-withdraw ako ng 386 pesos so parang napatunayan…then sa mga orders kailangan ko mag-abono. Nakapag abono na ako ng 44K na hiniram ko lang. Ngayon, dapat daw akong mag upgrade to VIP 7 that will cost 20K para ma-withdraw ko lahat ng pera ko, at kailangang gawin ko in 7 days…” (Words compressed and paraphrased for this article, see link in attribution below for actual post
The scam victim is now frantic about her situation.
What is happening? Why are these scammers proliferating again? Are the cellphone carriers not protecting the data privacy of their subscribers? Have we carelessly given away our cellphone numbers to too many online sellers, scanned too many QR codes during all these contact tracing activities and other online transactions?
But wait, there’s more! Do you know that there are text-blasting machines for sale that can send at a speed of 100,000 texts per hour? These don’t even need SIM cards making them almost untraceable. Can you guess who their target customers are? Scammers and politicians. And guess who the target customers of these buyers are? Everyone! Parang covid, walang pinipili. And just like covid, we all need to fortify our immune system to protect ourselves so that even if we come in contact with this virus more terrible than covid called scammers, we don’t suffer from their attack.
The Elements of a Scam
While the authorities should move quickly to catch these scammers, we should also do our part in protecting ourselves from these cheats. We should fortify our FQ, our financial immune system, and understand how scams work. This will be the equivalent of a vaccine against scammers.
Let’s now take a look at the elements of a scam:
- The promise of a high return over a short period of time with no risk. We always say that in investing, the higher the return, the higher the risk, and yet a lot of people still fall for this sales pitch. They forget to ask the why, how, what and where? Why should this investment be extraordinarily good? How will the money be made? What is the instrument? Where will it be invested? For the recruitment texts similar to the ones shared above, you have to ask yourself, “Did I even apply? How was I chosen? What is this job that pays so well? How is the money made?”
- There’s a lot of hyping and considerable pressure. If you attend a typical recruitment seminar, you see the main speaker very upbeat in delivering his talk as if he discovered the secret to living forever and is just so excited and generous to share it with you. There are a few participants who are actually planted in order to increase the pump and they are the ones who pretend signing up with lots of fanfare. There is pressure to sign up, “Sign up now or you lose this rare chance!” This does not allow the participants to go home and sleep over it before they make rational decisions. In the recruitment text messages, the scammers hype the amount that one can earn.
- The promise of change. Sales people would say, “This is an opportunity of a lifetime and is a game-changer!” They give you that impression that you belong to a lucky elite first group to be given a first crack at this once in a lifetime chance.
- Desperate customers. When we want to change something desperately, we are vulnerable targets. Due to the devastating effect of the pandemic, a lot of people lost their jobs and their savings, and they just want to earn, and to do so quickly. This is why scammers also proliferate during crisis.
- “I’m smarter than others” mentality. This is very much present in active stock trading and other speculative activities. Remember, it’s a zero-sum game and you would have to believe that you (even if you don’t have the necessary trading skills) could always beat the market! Believe it or not, some scam victims already smell something fishy, but just go on with the ride hoping that they would be able to get out “before the music stops.” They think of themselves as smarter than others. Unfortunately, nobody knows when the music will actually stop. In some cases, even the perpetrators don’t exactly know when.
- Once in, victims are under a spell. Just like the previous number, they already smell something fishy but still refuse to do something about it. As if hypnotized, they still turn a blind eye on what’s obviously wrong and just hold on to the promise of the scammer that everything will be okay. Heck, they don’t even ask for proper documents.
- Victims cry out for help when it’s too late. Time and again, we see the victims come out only when they’ve lost substantially, and the perpetrators have fled with all their money.
If you take a look at the above elements of a scam, you see that both the scam perpetrator and the victim are responsible for the deed to happen. In the case of the FB user crying for help, she said, “Na-scam ako dahil sa katangahan ko and I know that it was my fault…”Well, let’s remember that even the most intelligent person can have his moment of _______ (fill in the blank).” So let’s just be aware of that. As the saying goes, “Walang manloloko kung walang magpapaloko!”
Parallelisms with Elections
Okay, here we go again, it’s campaign time and we are being sold to once again. Sad to say, some of the candidates are doing the tricks of the scammers. Be prepared to receive text messages from their camps. Some will be promising the moon and the stars again, even without any data to back up their performance.
Can we please vet our candidates against the above elements of a scam? Let’s not be fooled by high return over a short period of time (e.g. eradication of this and that problem in six months), hype of performance without empirical data, the impossible promise of change, and let’s not be hypnotized under the scammer’s spell that we are willing to throw out all our values just to justify their terrible actions.
And remember, your succumbing to a scammer during the election will not only affect you, but the entire country. Maawa ka naman.
1. If you want to examine how Mak or how Emong you are on different Behavioral Economics principles, you can rate yourself on all 16 principles in the book The Psychology of Money, it’s the flipside of the two in one second installment of the FQ Trilogy. Click this link to get your copy.
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Link to the Scam victim’s post: https://www.facebook.com/Ekay.sagales/posts/3118925318432759
Link to article on text-blasting machines:
This article is also published in Philstar.