Optimistic people are more easily duped, study shows

People with an optimistic outlook on life may be more susceptible to mass marketing scams, especially if there’s a large financial reward promised.

People with an optimistic outlook on life may be more susceptible to mass marketing scams, especially if there’s a large financial reward promised.

Researchers from the University of Plymouth and Scripps College conducted a study to examine what factors drive people to fall victim to mass marketing scams, even when they understand the risks of identity theft and the scams themselves.

If a mass marketing scam offers a large reward and the financial gains are looked at in a positive light, the researchers found that people are more likely to disregard the risks.

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

500 adults were asked to participate in the study and the researchers used 25 real scams that had been successful at baiting people in Los Angeles. The scams offered large rewards of up to $25,000.

Some of the scams also had a fee that participants would have to pay to get the reward and the researchers wanted to see if activation fees deterred participants.

Nearly half of all the participants said they were interested in responding to the scams, and the biggest determining factor was how each individual perceived the risks of the scam compared to the reward.

Only a quarter of the participants indicated an interest in the scams that had activation fees which shows that fees do cause many people to lose interest.

The researchers also found that people with less education were more susceptible to the mass marketing scams compared to people with higher degrees of education.

“It’s important to look at these factors so that consumer education can be improved and targeted,” said Hanoch. “Given that perception of benefits and risks were the most important factors in intention to comply in both experiments, one clear option is to encourage individuals to focus only on the risk and discount the benefits.”

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer