Unfortunately it’s part of the scammer’s job to override this protective field of scepticism. Their aim is to lure, panic, bully, shame consumers into impulsive acts. Students of this area of applied psychology call it social engineering.
Social engineering causes us to hand over personal or financial information, or spend tens, hundreds even thousands of pounds seeking jobs, homes, holidays and investments that never materialise.
Asking the questions
This is why Scams Awareness Month 2016 is all about getting consumers to listen to their instincts when it comes to scams.
In listening mode we start asking questions: why me? why now? who is this really? what if? It could mean just saying no. Or it might mean taking the time to get advice from the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline (03454 040506), doing a bit of research or reporting known scams to Action Fraud (0300 123 2040).
Our campaign has been co-designed with consumers, to help consumers. In putting together the campaign messages for Scams Awareness Month, Citizens Advice drew on the voices of real consumers who had been targeted by scammers. We also surveyed 1600 people among our network of campaigners and partners on the Consumer Protection Panel testing the impact of a range of messages, with some expressing negative emotions of people reflecting on being scammed, others expressing the positive, empowered responses of people who had spotted scams. The favoured option was the positive, empowered responses to scams that appear on our campaign
This positive, empowered response is how it should be and in fact is for most of us, most of the time. But there are so many distractions in modern life that sometimes we fail to listen to our gut feeling when it comes to scams.
Listening to our instincts makes us savvy consumers…it can also make us better citizens when we use our suspicions to protect others less aware of the threat posed by scammers and who are often, as a result, mercilessly targeted.
Across the Citizens Advice network in July, our consumer campaigners will be holding events, roadshows, creating videos, talking to consumers and working in partnership with trading standards, banks, local authorities, Neighbourhood Watches, Police and Crime Commissioners offices and others, to spread awareness of scams that come by phone, online, via post and on the doorstep.
Scams Awareness Month is all about getting consumers to do three things if they spot or suspect a scam: get advice from the Citizens Advice Consumer Service, report scams to Action Fraud and tell others so that awareness grows.
The campaign is also a chance to listen: to the deep knowledge of enforcers and crime fighters, to the experiences of other consumers who have been scammed and to the wisdom we all access when we listen to our gut feeling.
Find more about Scams Awareness Month at: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/scams-awareness-month. If you or your organisation want to get involved in activities there are some campaign resources to help you at: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/sam16.