Monday, March 5, 2018

FOMO Blues, Part II - Scams

FOMO - Fear of Missing Out - is also what causes people to fall for scams.

An article in USA McToday this morning opines that "Millennials" (boo! hiss!) are falling for even more scams that their befuddled grandparents.  One reason I think people fall for a lot of these scams is also FOMO.

Consider the typical Craigslist scam - one I detailed before.   People from Africa, mostly Nigeria, list a "desirable" item on Craigslist for a fire-sale price.  Usually, these are items that appeal to younger people - motorcycles, boats, cars, tractors, or campers.   And usually the price is some random number above $2000 and below $2500, because even someone living in the margins can scrape up this much dough - even if they borrow it from Grandma.

As I noted, we paid $8375 for our Casita, used, over a decade ago.   It is nearly 20 years old.  Today, it would fetch at least $4000 or more.   New ones sell for about $25,000 with options and all.   So the idea that you can buy one that is only five or six years old for $2241 is just ridiculous (and why such and odd price?  To thwart Cragislist fraud bots!).  If my 20-year-old Casita sells for twice that, who in their right mind would sell a five-year-old one for two grand?

Nevertheless, many a young person has thought to themselves, "This sounds too good to be true!  But then again, I don't want to miss out on this great deal!  I'd better send them money before someone else does!"   And FOMO causes them to ignore their first instinct (this sounds too good to be true) because they are more concerned with "missing out" on a "good deal".

Are there good deals out there?  Yes, but rarely such dramatic price reductions as a $17,000 used trailer selling for $2,000.   Some friends of mine just bought a house at an estate sale for $250,000.  It would sell, fixed up, for $400,000 easily, perhaps more.   That's a good deal, but hardly a "steal" as they could easily sink $50,000 to $100,000 into it - plus a lot of their own labor.

What would be a steal is if the house sold for $40,000.   But that rarely, if ever, happens, as people are not idiots, and you could get more money for it than that if you just walked into the Real Estate agent's office and told them you wanted to sell today.  The agent would likely buy it for more than that!

Similarly, why would someone list a trailer for sale on Craigslist for so low, and deal with the hassles of selling to someone remotely, when a dealer would pay them more for it in trade.  Indeed, there are multiple listings on Craigslist from legitimate dealers saying they will "buy your RV in any condition!"   They may not give you much for it, but likely more than $2241.

But all of that is logical thinking, and FOMO blows logic out of your brain.   Act now!  Don't miss out!  You can score a deal and impress all your friends!

Oh, right.  Status rears its ugly head once again.   It is not surprising, really, but people like to brag about what "great deals!" they scored.  And I think that is one thing that motivates couponers - they talk about their big scores (much as gamblers do) but never talk about the overall costs of these efforts or how much time they spend (waste) on them.   I have a friend who is an avid couponer, who buys stuff "on sale" and then gives it away, because they really didn't need whatever it was, but FOMO prevented them from not buying it.   "At these prices, you can't afford not to buy!" is another cry we hear.

FOMO makes us do odd things.  And con artists and salesmen (I am being redundant) know this.  If you watch salesmen training videos on YouTube, you see this all the time.  "Give the prospect a sense of urgency, by telling him another prospect is interested in the car!" one video proclaims.   In other words, lie to your customer - lie like a rug.

But getting back to scams, it doesn't surprise me that younger people fall for them as well as the elderly.  The elderly are often confused, and being raised in a different era, perhaps more trusting.  They still answer the phone, and believe whatever the person on the other end is saying.   Younger people think they are more astute, but will fall for whatever people on Facebook say, or what a discussion group troll tells them.   If you don't believe this, go on Reddit sometime - half the "subreddits" there are for scams such as penny-stock pump-n-dumps, or lately, cryptocurrency pump-n-dumps.

Middle-aged people are wary enough, having been scammed as youth.  But they haven't started to lose their faculties yet and regress back.

Kids want to be hip and with-it and accepted by their peers.  So when they go on a discussion group, they are far more likely to follow the group norm.   This is how we ended up with Teen Nazis and the alt.right.   Kids who have never even held a job in their lives are convinced that somehow their legacy has been "taken away" from them.  I digress, but not far - it is just a different sort of scam, really.  Same shit, different day.

And that is the problem with being young - marketers know they can sell anything to young people, particularly young men, aged 16-35.   And con artists know this as well.