New findings from a two-year study bring researchers closer to understanding why some people are more likely to lose money to financial fraud.
As part of the study, investigators found that the attitudes and beliefs shaping the ways study participants looked at the world — known as “mental frames” — may have influenced the way they reacted to scams.
Specifically, researchers propose that mental frames governing compliance, opportunity, intelligence and order may have affected the way that interviewees interpreted what scammers told them. Individuals were more likely to lose money if they believed that:
• Authority should not be challenged.
• Financial opportunities are a zero-sum game with clear winners and losers.
• The world is organized in a way that rewards good people.
• Asking too many questions can make a person seem ignorant.
Study participants were identified from a pool of people who filed reports with BBB Scam Tracker℠, an online fraud reporting tool offered by the Better Business Bureau. Researchers spoke with 17 people who were targeted by scammers.
In recorded interviews, some participants explained how scammers reached out with promises of easy money or lucrative investments. Others described receiving phone calls from fraudsters posing as IRS agents and demanding payment of back taxes.
Researchers also interviewed two young men who worked from an overseas call center to defraud hundreds of people using the IRS scam.
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