MY IGNORANT BIAS
When I was a young adult, I would read about various scams and see news stories where they interview scam victims. At the time, I had several biases and believed some strange things. One of those is the idea that people who fall for scams must be really stupid.
Very, very stupid.
So you can imagine my surprise when a “friend” came to me with the news that she had cancer, needed a great deal of financial help, and ended up being a scammer.
As I’ve written, I came to the conclusion that I had become a stupid old person, just like all of the scam victims I had seen, read, and heard about. I was so convinced that I was stupid, that I went to a professional to get tested. I wanted hard evidence that I was stupid.
I was tested, and the results showed that I had a significantly higher-than-average IQ. But even with this “good news,” I still felt very stupid. The whole thing left too many questions for me.
“If I’m so intelligent, then why did I fall for this?”
INVESTIGATING THE SCAM AND SCAMMERS
Sadly, in America it is VERY believable that someone could have medical issues and not be able to afford them. The majority of campaigns on GoFundMe are medical in nature. It is a sad commentary on the failure of American culture and leadership.
Why did I fall for the scam in the first place?
Some have suggested that she made sexual advances, and that I fell for that. This is wrong. We were “friends” on Facebook first. Then she wrote to break the news. She called me and cried as she begged for help and begged for her life.
Being Autistic and overly-empathetic, I felt truly sad for her and decided to go all-in with regard to helping her. For 8-8 months, I sent her every single penny that I did not need for survival, and more, to make sure that she had the money that she claimed she needed.
Meanwhile, I did without. My vision got blurry, indicating that I needed an eye exam. The cars needed oil changes and new tires. I stretched things out as far as I could.
In the end, we lost at least $30,000. This does NOT include gifts like clothing, a winter coat, and a plane ticket to visit in California. Those items were worth a few thousand, at least.
This number [$30,000] is made worse by the fact that $10,000 of it was borrowed and had to be paid back. This included a $5,000 lien against my car. So it puts the actual number to at least $40,000.
As I had written before, the money lost was the easy part, because both of us were STILL making great money. All it took was to keep putting out big money, but sending it to creditors and lenders instead of the cancer scammer.
We were out of the hole in roughly two months. This is why the money part was so easy. The hard part was the psychological damage, which I am still working on repairing, and have been doing so over the past 8+ years. After that, the social damage done was also a difficult hurdle to overcome.
THREE ATTRIBUTES THAT MANY SCAMMERS SEEK OUT
There are some scams out there that rely heavily on a poor education. For example, the 419 Nigerian Prince scam relies on this, as well as other pain points. It is a well-known fact that America cuts funding to education every single year. As a result, we are close to the bottom with regard to education in developed nations. America almost no longer looks like a developed nation.
When they send out their email with spelling and grammar errors, they are trying to find people who won’t notice these things. People who recognize this will delete and block the email. Those who do not will read on.
That’s the first of three manipulation points.
In their emails, they will often times reference Jesus, God, Christ, or Christianity. This is another test, and is also the second manipulatoin. People who hold these beliefs tend to trust others whom they are told also hold those beliefs. This is the case, even if they do not know the person.
The “test” for being a Christian in America is declaring that you believe. That’s it. Nothing more.
The third and final manipulation point is greed, or at the very least, the desperate need for money. I defer to the latter, because in most cases it’s desperation more than anything else. This is a damning testament to the horrible and true nature of American finances.
READ: Minimum Wage Workers Can’t Afford Rent Anywhere in America
Before the pandemic, a report noted that the average American cannot afford a $400 emergency. So you can imagine what kind of damage the pandemic has caused. The wealthy have ensured that we have a K-shaped economy, but that’s another discussion that should be headed up by an economist.
So I’ve highlighted these three attributes that these scammers seek out and exploit: Poor education, religious trust, and financial desperation.
At the time that the cancer scammer took advantage of me, NONE of these applied in my situation. My education, including self-education, is solid and my spelling and grammar are mostly impeccable. I am not religious, so I don’t buy it that someone is “good” just because they tell me they are Christian. And, to top it off, I was neither greedy nor desperate for money at the time.
If I had none of those attributes, then how did she take advantage of me?
THE FOURTH ATTRIBUTE
There is a fourth attribute that scammers seek out. I am giving this attribute its own section because it can be used against a person, even when the other three are not present.
How it worked in my case was she and I became “friends” on Facebook in late 2010. She spent 3 years grooming me, investigating me, and observing my online behaviors. After 3 years, she had a really good picture of what was going on, and how to best get under my skin.
She recognized that I am a highly empathetic person, and that I would go out of my way to help anyone whom I considered to be a friend. For 3 years, she watched me as I would help others who needed it. She saw how responsive I was to friends who needed help with rent, a place to stay, a ride to or from the airport, and even with “loans” that I never expected to be paid back.
So she knew how to frame her “need for help.” She then tacked on the crying, as well as a constant state of urgency, to keep me on my toes. I used to cry myself to sleep because I was concerned that she was going to die.
How ironic that she’s actually dead, and all I can feel is relief.
HOW TO SPOT EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION
Kristen wasn’t the only scammer using emotional manipulation to acquire and control victims. Certain “news” outlets, as well as certain politicians, use emotional manipulation to control their viewers and voters to get what they want.
When a reporter on video starts yelling at you, or starts to become agitated, they are informing you on how you should feel about what they are saying.
As for politicians, when they tell you, “Biden is comin to take away your guns and bibles,” they do so to invoke a sense of fear. Of course, nobody is coming to take away guns or bibles. And the truth is that many Leftists also appreciate the Second Amendment.
With the majority in support, the Second Amendment is not in danger of being taken away. This does not stop Republican politicians from using fear to get what they want.
I can already hear the response, that Democrats and Left-wing individuals used COVID-19 to scare. This is not true, based on the media that I have consumed. Nobody yells at me while delivering this information. They don’t inform me on how I should feel about this.
Certainly, things that are real can be used to scare. However, the popular things that are used in their scare tactics are things that aren’t real, or that aren’t really happening.
One great example is the idea that “Dr. Seuss has been cancelled by the Left!!!!” This didn’t happen. What DID happen was the people who work to preserve the works of Dr. Seuss self-identified some titles in the collection that did not age well. In other words, they did not keep up with the values of society. For that reason, and NOT because of a “woke mob,” they decided to discontinue certain titles.
It might have been fine for them to put warnings at the beginning of the titles. However, they made their decision. It’s their company, their decision, their choice. In other words, it was the Free Market, something that some people merely claim to believe in. We don’t really live in a Free Market, but that’s for an economist to discuss.
Nobody forced it. But this fact does nothing to convince those who have been scared into believing that a mob is looking for them.
If you’re afraid of being cancelled because you are racist, then it might be a good idea to stop being racist. It’s not really cancel culture, so much as it is consequence culture.
If you walk up to someone and spit on their face, then you can expect something bad to happen in the very near future. That’s how life works. Do something, and then suffer the consequences.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
I have developed a few ways to protect myself that seem to be working so far.
Avoid news where they yell: Whether it’s Judge Pirro on Fox, or Alex Jones, I refuse to listen to anyone who either yells at their audience, or who condescends to their audience as if they are stupid.
Foster a variety of sources: Having just one or two sources for information isn’t enough. For topics I care about, I have to read about it from multiple sources, and then come to my own determination.
Investigate your own feelings: Did a story make you feel really angry because you heavily disagreed with it? Did the story make you feel really good because you agreed with it way too much? Those feelings are indicators that something may be wrong. I always investigate, because it could just be me, but it could also be them.
Investigate “othering” of opposition: Did a Left-leaning outlet just tell me that the Republicans are doing X? Ah, okay, but I want to find out for myself. This is when I go to Right-leaning outlets and see what they are saying about themselves.
Unfortunately, too many people on both sides are too easily wiling to believe everything they are told. Too many Trump voters sincerely believe that Democrats worship Satan, abduct children, frighten them, and then drink their blood to get the Adrenochrome that keeps them young. And they do all of this from the basement of a pizza place that verifiably DOES NOT have a basement.
Diane Feinstein has entered the chat.
Doesn’t seem to be working on HER all that well. That’s because it’s a conspiracy. And ALL conspiracies lead to anti-Semitism.
The best example of lies being told about opposition can be found in any Christian church, where they will put forth a never-ending list of the attributes and behaviors of Atheists. None of them are true. What IS true is that bearing false witness against your neighbor is a violation of the Eight Commandment, noted in The Ten Commandments.
Yea, they’re actually breaking one of their god’s own rules to crap on non-believers.
Perk up and pay attention during emotional discussions: Suppose a friend in town sees me, and we stop and chat. They are very emotional and are telling me something horrible, followed by the declaration that they are in need of financial assistance.
This is when I will shut off my emotional responses. Instead of feeling what they are telling me, I must listen to what they are telling me. It is important to listen to the words and to understand what they mean, in order to avoid a potentially bad situation.
If they are urgent, then I must demand time.
Thought-terminating cliches: If someone uses these, then it is time to question what they are saying. Examples of thought-terminating cliches include, but are not limited to, the following: Boys will be boys, it is what it is, we need to agree to disagree, that’s just your opinion, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, the lord giveth and the lord taketh away, everything happens for a reason, don’t judge, link or it didn’t happen, don’t be THAT guy, because that’s our policy, don’t be silly, I’m just saying, so it goes, whatever, that’s life, who cares, be a man and X, god has a plan, the lord works in mysterious ways, it’s Adam and Eve NOT Adam and Steve, it’s just common sense, it works in theory but not practice, rules are rules…
Those are just some of the phrases. As you read them, you will start to see patterns of circular reasoning.
Note that some of these thought-terminating cliches are also used in gaslighting, a practice where a person will get another person to doubt their own perception of reality. This is sinister, and I recommend performing a Google search to learn more about this.
Remember your responsibilities: I told a former neighbor about the cancer scammer before we moved, and highlighted just how far we went to help her. After hearing the story, she had a really important question to ask me.
“Who made this YOUR problem?”
Ah. Well, the answer is.. uh… ahem….. eh….
I was the one who made it my problem. And that, in and of itself, was an actual big problem for me. I used to tend to want to help people, to fix their situations, or to otherwise rescue them.
Recognizing that I contributed to this situation was important. Owning my role in this situation allows me the opportunity to correct these issues so that they will not be repeated.
Discard judgmental attitudes and opinions: As noted above, when I was younger and I’d see older people getting scammed, I sincerely believed that they were stupid.
Not only was this judgment false and unjustified, but this judgment turned around and pointed its mighty barrel directly at my face. Now I was the one who was “stupid,” when the reality is that stupidity or ignorance tend to play a small roll in this.
Yes, there are relatively stupid people out there who refuse to be tricked. One could suggest they were smart enough to develop a defense for themselves, which would be reason enough to re-evaluate that assessment.
Kicking this bias is a difficult thing to do in our current situation. It is typically more productive to assert that an idea or belief is stupid, and not the person. And then you experience someone who is highly questionable, and that serves as a challenge to the idea that the focus must be on ideas and not people.
The thing is, people can learn and change, even if they don’t really want to do it. This can happen. Sometimes it does not, but I like to leave open the possibility that a person can learn something and grow from it.
IN THE END: ONE MORE THING
To paraphrase Alan Watts, If you say that you understand the Brahma, then it is clear that you have no idea of that of which you speak. However, if you say that you do not understand the Brahma, then it is clear that you understand.
For me, it is true that being Autistic and overly-empathetic, as well as being a fixer and rescuer, left me wide-open for exploitation by a scammer.
But I suspect that my biggest weakness of all was holding the belief that I was too smart to be scammed. Indeed, I believed that getting scammed is something that happens exclusively to stupid people.
For this reason, I let my guard down. With my guard down, I was left wide open.
My belief that I was better than others, combined with my judgments about people who have been scammed, were things that started out being pointed at others. Eventually, those things ended up being pointed at me. And I am more harsh on myself than anyone else could ever possibly be.
As I write this, I remind myself to not judge others, and that this is especially true for when they get scammed. Yes, a person’s attitude about things can change when they experience these things for themselves.
If you are interested and want to learn more about scams, scammers, how they function, and more, then I would highly recommend the Spencer Cornelia YouTube Channel. He talks about all of the latest scams, as well as the classics, and gives his viewers valuable information on how to identify and avoid these types of situations.
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