Monday, December 12, 2011

How Dumb Do You Have to Be?

People who like to believe that major Corporations are giving away large sums of money, usually end up scammed, utterly.   How dumb do you have to be?  Should we feel sorry for 'victims' of these scams?

Today on Snopes, yet another example of the "free gift card" survey scam.  These things have been going on for a while now, usually on Facebook.

You click on a link, which "likes" the scam (thus propagating it to others) and you are set to an official looking website.  You are told that you need only answer a survey (because your opinions are so important, they are worth $100!!!) and then sign up for some "offers" and you'll get your free gift card!

In most cases, you never get the gift card.  But after going through screen after screen (each time, being promised that your "free gift card" is just moments away!) you end up giving them a lot of very personal information, which can be sold to SPAMmers or worse.

And then, you are told you have to sign up for several "free offers" - usually "negative option" subscription services that require you to give a credit card number.  They charge you month after month for these worthless subscriptions, while you desperately try to cancel them.  Guess what?  They have no record of your phone call, e-mail, fax, or even letters.

Or, in one variation, you consent to having a bogus "service" slammed into your phone line or cell phone - again, nearly impossible to get rid of.

These scams are just that - scams.  And yet, they are wildly popular - a new one comes out every month.  Why is this?

Because people are fools, and think that they can get something-for-nothing. Hey, a major corporation will give me $100 for my opinions!  Why not?  And Bill Gates will give me a free laptop, if I forward this message to 100 of my friends!  Sure, it could happen.  In fantasy-world.

The troubling part of all this is that the mindset is promoted by the "legitimate" retail industry, and I use the term "legitimate" in quotes, only because if I put it in 100 quote marks, it would look silly.

Drive down the street in your home town, and chances are, they are offering FREE 0% FINANCING! on a new car, or CASH-BACK REBATES!   Or the bank has FREQUENT FLYER MILES! or CASH-BACK BONUSES! just for using their credit cards!  The grocery store is offering BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE! or BOGO on canned corn!

And so on.  In the "legitimate"  commercial world, "FREE" is thrown in our face on a daily basis, and in 99% of cases, what they tout as "FREE" isn't free at all, but comes with all sorts of catches, and usually ends up costing you more than the "not free" version.

And yet, this is the most popular form of marketing out there, today, and most people fall for it.  And even on this blog, I get people trying to regale me with how their "Free" deals are so utterly worth it - while they ignore the underlying transaction entirely.

Tell you all what.  Send me $500 and I will send you a FREE TOASTER (retail value, $19.95 or less).  Hey, it's FREE, right?  What are you waiting for!!!

So people, nursed at the teat of FREE this and that, tend to think they are getting something for nothing.  Of course, anyone can see that the 0% financing is paid for in the padded price of the car, that the "Cash Back" rebate is just a sale price that merely makes the product closer to the competitive price of the marketplace.  That the cash-back and bonus miles are more than paid for by one month's interest at 22%.  And of course, the "BOGO" deal is just pricing one item at 50% off - which is still higher in price that it would be at the warehouse store.

But most people are idiots and fail to realize this, and thus are fodder for even more apparent scams - like free gift cards, free money, or whatever.  And they fall victim to these scams.  And these scams are wildly popular.

While we may not produce much in this country anymore, we seem to produce a bumper crop of chumps these days.  Ask anyone at an Internet Cafe in Lagos, Nigeria.  They love Americans!  After all, we pay for their Mercedes.