Are You Phish Bait?


The UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) published over the weekend a study that it had commissioned from The University of Exeter on the psychological reasons why people may fall victim to mass marketed scams.

The some of the study findings, as listed in the press release, are that:

* up to 20 per cent of the UK population could be particularly vulnerable to scams, with previous victims of a scam consistently more likely to show interest in responding again;

* a good background knowledge of the subject of a scam offer, such as experience of investments, may actually increase the risk of becoming a victim through 'over-confidence';

* victims are not in general poor-decision makers, for example they may have successful business or professional careers, but tend to be unduly open to persuasion by others and less able to control their emotions, and;

* victims often keep their decision to respond to a scam offer private and avoid speaking about it with family or friends.

The OFT says that the research findings will help to inform the joint OFT and Serious Organised Crime Agency's National Strategy for tackling mass marketed fraud, in particular in developing more effective consumer awareness campaigns to help consumers recognize and resist scams.

Good luck with that.

As Martin Waller, a columnist for the London Times points out in a less than complimentary comment about the OFT study: "The research, specially commissioned from the Department of the Bleedin' Obvious at a Real University, seems on a quick reading not to give too much weight to the theory that those scammed are either stupid or greedy. Or both."


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City