Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The scam design

I have been following links to obvious scams over the past few days in an effort to find out what all the best ones are.  Best, in this case, is defined by being the most audacious and obviously false.  The latest contributions are a perpetual motion machine that you can build yourself "even if you have never built anything in your life; a child could build it" that purports to make free electricity from the earth's magnetic field and a backyard aquaponics system that lets you grow tons of vegetables and fish with almost no investment of time, money, or expertise.

They have something in common with other scams in that they have a ridiculous lead in time where you are expected to read dozens of pages of text or watch a 25 minute video before you are given the opportunity to buy.  I wanted to buy the product right away but I couldn't... the video must be watched to the end first!  I assume the reason for this is that they need to build a fever pitch of excitement to get people to actually plunk down their money for a big fat lie and they need to build up their claims of legal persecution, made up history, and apocalypse scenarios before people will buy in.  Seriously, I get that people are worried about economic instability but I really didn't know how big a business cataclysm planning was.

I wonder though if it is even more sinister; perhaps there is a subset of people out there who happen to be particularly vulnerable to interminable pitches and who also happen to be the only ones who will fall for these scams.  It is possible that rather than just fishing for random people who make a mistake these scams are actually just getting the same people to buy into them, over and over, because they cannot resist this style of presentation.  If you knew that 1% of the population would be unable to resist a certain type of pitch for a bullshit product you could just keep on making up new products and taking their money.  It would be like the energy companies that sell fixed rate energy door to door; they target old people on fixed incomes who are vulnerable to scare tactics about wildly fluctuating prices.

The people that fall for these scams need a stint in retail or door to door sales where they have price control.  After making up prices themselves for a few years they should have a much improved ability to ignore 'Special Limited Time Offer' type scams and put these crooks out of business.

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