I got a notice from my bank telling about some of the latest scams to be aware of. In one such scam, a man claiming to be from the Social Security Administration in Georgia told the old woman that they would be sending her a new social security card. Then he asked for personal and bank information to verify that he was talking to a real person. The woman felt certain it was a scam and hung up the phone.
A friend of mine got a call from a woman claiming to be from the police fraud division, who then told her that her AOL account had been hacked. My friend also hung up, feeling certain it was a scam, but it turned out to be the truth.
Some people think we’re more gullible now, especially on the internet where we tend to take people at face value, but still, most people do have a healthy dose of skepticism when they receive messages such as, “Hi Linda, my name is John. I came across your profile and was taken by your smile. I must confess you are a very beautiful lady….I would love to get to know you please be nice enough to tell me a thing or two about you ok?” Calling me Linda was my first clue that this email wasn’t directed at me personally, but even without that, I knew it wasn’t on the level. If they were truly interested in me, they would have referenced an article I wrote or mentioned one of my ideas. I am much more susceptible to flattery about my writing than I am about my looks! Well, not susceptible. Let’s say appreciative.
I have a hunch it’s not that we’re more gullible now but that the scams are more detailed and often seem as if they could be true. If someone dressed as a cop came to your house and flashed a realistic-looking badge, wouldn’t you assume that he or she really was a cop? We all have a vague idea of what a cop’s shield looks like — we’ve seen thousands of them in movies and TV shows. Many of us have even seen them up close when we had to report a burglary or car accident, but we probably couldn’t tell the difference between a real badge and a fake one, especially if it were dark and we were scared. And chances are the badge wouldn’t be fake anyway — it could have been stolen.
Dick Clark once did a show called TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, where they played tricks on people. I didn’t watch it very often because I truly hated it. I remember one scheme they pulled on Corbin Bernsen that was so elaborately detailed, they got real producers and directors to take him to lunch and make him believe he got a big part. I still remember his blank look when they laughed at him for being gullible. How could he not believe it was the truth? It was exactly the way it would have happened for real. That blank look remained only for a moment, but I remember it more than his good-natured laugh that came afterward.
Whether people are more gullible or not, we authors hope for at least some gullibility. If it weren’t for readers’ ability to believe in things that are not true, we’d be out of a job.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” All Bertram’s books are published by Second Wind Publishing. Connect with Pat on Google+