Survey: Optimists more likely to fall for scams

Is the risk worth the reward? Optimists who see the world through rose-colored glasses are more likely to think so. Unfortunately, this optimism on everything working out can lead these positive people to their doom, a new study on the kind of people who are more likely to fall for mass marketing scams found.

Common mass marketing scams lure their prey with the promise of a large reward — as long as you’re willing to pay the small activation fee. Optimists focusing on the payoff ignore alarm bells of you needing to call to claim your prize now-now-now! ‘What’s a fee of $100 when the payoff could be thousands more?’ these optimists think.

“Consumers with lower levels of education and high perception of benefits are at increased risk for mass marketing scams,” researchers from the University of Plymouth and Scripps College concluded in their paper.

The psychology of falling for a scam

Your assessment of risk versus reward had the biggest impact on whether or not you would fall for a scam, researchers found in their study. Activation fees woke some people out of their get-rich-quick daydream, but even paying triple-digit sums of money was not enough of a deterrent for some of us.

When participants had to pay an activation fee of $5 to $100, about 25% of participants still had an interest in responding to the scam.

“On the one hand, consumers are for the most part able to recognize potential scams,” Professor Yaniv Hanoch, one of the study’s authors, said. “But the lure of the prize is largely driving individuals’ behaviors, leading many of them to discount the possible risks. The sentiment seems to be, ‘after all, what harm can be done by just responding to a letter?’ ”

This is a cautionary tale for those of us who see dollar signs without noting costs. Keep seeing the glass half-full, optimists. Just remember not to discount the risks.