I received a rather lovely but strange email today

I clicked a phishing link at work once. By sheer coincidence it was directly related to some high-level stuff that we’d been talking about that day. I did the smart thing and immediately ran to the Dope for advice, and ended up reformatting my work computer just to be on the safe side.

Looking back on that post, the email might have come from an internal compromised account. I don’t remember.

Either way, it’s plenty easy for people like me (only a little dumb, not quite a moron) to fall into the scam trap.

And that’s the hardest part for the scammers. Once they’ve got you on the hook, they know how to manipulate and cajole in effective ways. They also know how to take advantage of flaws in our cognitive processes, like the appeal of the sunk cost fallacy.

The scariest part is that you’re more susceptible to this kind of thing as you get older. Research suggests that elderly people who are otherwise sharp and independent are at greater risk of falling for scams. So you could be trucking along, living your best retired life and still years away from needing anyone to take a hand in your financial affairs, and suddenly find yourself embroiled in an elaborate scam that costs you your life savings.

Scamming is a multi-billion dollar industry that’s more sophisticated than folks give it credit for. It’s definitely not a kind of financial Darwinism that culls income from the ‘desperate, lonely, depressed, addled, gullible, or stupid.’

At least, not just from them.

I once clicked on an obviously suspicious link and instantly blasted my work PC with a bajillion types of malware. I had dental work done earlier and was in pain and the Vicodin wasn’t especially helping. I was going to take some OTC pain meds and decided to Google if there might be a reaction and the top return was some .ru domain with an alphabet soup URL (like “bestdrugsinfo.ashjf6-goottye”) and I would never click on anything like that in a clear state of mind.

But my mind wasn’t clear: I was tired, in pain, hopped up on Vicodin and just wanted my answer. So I clicked on a link I wouldn’t think anyone would be fooled by or touch with a ten foot pole. Ten seconds later, my system was swarming with porn and online gambling popups and it took a few days of online help to get it finally cleared out. Granted, that wasn’t a Nigerian oil baron widow asking me for money but I could believe I might have fallen for some more elaborate phishing attempt that promised to fix my issues or threatened immediate needed action in that state.

Of course anyone could unthinkingly click on a phishing link. That’s not the kind of scam I was referring to.

And if an elderly person loses their life savings to, say, an IRS scam, it’s more than likely they’ve been addled by age, in that their cognitive functions are not as sharp as they used to be.

Sure, I think it’s true that different types of scams tend to catch different categories of victim - advance fee and investment scams do seem to have more elderly victims; employment scams and romance scams tend to catch the younger ones. There’s a scam for everyone!