STEP 1: ONCE IN A LIFETIME
“Congratulations, YOU have won in a lottery!”
“My client Mr. David died in plane crash and I have determined YOU are the next of kin for his inheritance!”
“Are you in need of a loan and no one is giving you credit? I have an offer for YOU! Apply now with only 0,01 % interest!”
Sentences like these are typical to the first emails sent by the scammers. Most of us would delete them without a second thought. But suppose you don’t receive emails very often in the first place and don’t know much about the internet fraud. Suppose you use a service with strong spam filter, such as Gmail. Suppose you never open your spam folder and never see what the scam mails look like. Then suppose one of the letters get through the filter and you receive an offer where you have a chance to get rich quick. What are you going to do?
You might suspect there is something wrong with this. You may have heard that you should not respond to emails like these. But the offer looks enticing, doesn’t it? What if this is for real? It looks real! The sender has attached some very genuine looking documents and is linking to real news articles. What harm could it do to you to reply to the email? You are not promising anything by doing that, right? There is no risk involved and you are smart, so you know how to recognize a possible scam once you see more. Do you already recognize the common ways with which you are justifying starting a habit to yourself? Then you can see why a scam can also turn into a habit.
The scammers’ success of getting the crucial first reply from a victim could also be compared to the classic case of having a crush as a teen. You hesitate to ask the chosen of your heart for a date. You may be afraid of getting rejected and the shame of it. But you also know that if you are not going to ask him/her out, you are still going to be asking yourself 30 years from there on: “what if I had…”
The scammer is offering a once in a lifetime opportunity to get rich and there seems to be no risk involved in asking for more information. If you outright refuse, you are still going to ask yourself later: “what if I really lost millions of dollars just by being paranoid?” So obviously it feels smart to ask for more information. And once the scammer gets the crucial opportunity to smooth talk you into reading more and more information, making you dream more and more and taking you deeper and deeper into his world of delusion, he has in fact already gained all that he needs for a payday.