Coronavirus demons: how do scammers deceive us during a pandemic?


“Hello, sorry, I’ll delay you a little. I live in this house. Did you hear that a saleswoman with a coronavirus was taken away from the store around the corner yesterday in an ambulance? Are you going from there? Let me exchange your bills for non-cash – I will transfer them to the card now. Why would you touch infected money? ” – approximately with such a kind message the young man addressed the 70-year-old resident of Kazan.

“Very friendly, attentive, courteous. He says you reminded me of my grandmother. She lives in another city. Maybe someone will help her now, as I will help you, ”she later told her daughter. Of course, the woman did not find her five thousand rubles on the card.

In the Moscow region, even before the announcement of the introduction of fines, but already during quarantine and permitted dog walking, the girl fell into the hands of “vigilantes”, who pretended to her that she was walking in the park without a special pass and that a fine of 500 rubles was imposed for this … The girl paid, otherwise she would have to “go to the police.”

Scammers also read the news, and they are, as they say, in the trend of public life.

Letters began to arrive in e-mail promising to reduce income tax, restructure debts and loans, and such appeals are signed very convincingly and are branded by “well-known companies.”

The sale of fake coronavirus tests, “super-effective” drugs, has begun, and the delivery of popular goods (for example, ginger, masks, gloves) at an inflated price is offered. Various calls for charity in connection with the coronavirus – for treatment or care for the sick – live or online.

Scammers also read the news, and they are, as they say, in the trend of public life. Why is fraud on the rise right now? It would seem that people at this time, on the contrary, are more attentive and alert to information. But…

Why do we believe?

In a situation of pandemic and total change, the feeling of uncertainty and fear increases. “At the moment,“ fear from fear ”dominates, which is based on a very powerful existential fear that the situation may get out of control, that the lives of ours and those of our loved ones may be in jeopardy,” explains social psychologist, psychodramatic therapist Miliana Blazic … – Fraudsters know very well that a person in a state of fear reacts instinctively, and they try to quickly intimidate and achieve their goal.

In a situation of fear, a person triggers a genetically inherent fight-or-flight mechanism, first described by Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon in 1915. The purpose of this mechanism is to help us survive in dangerous situations. As a result of fear, our muscles tense, adrenaline is released, breathing and heart rate quicken – we are preparing to fight. “

Sometimes fighting is not the best option (forces are not equal, or we do not feel that we have enough resources), and then we choose to flee.

“In the described example with a fine for walking a dog, just such a mechanism worked: the girl decided to pay -“ run away ”from a conflict and dangerous situation so that the worst did not happen – proceedings with the police,” the psychologist continues. – In the above examples, the scammers have shown audacity. They also use more sophisticated techniques – for example, intelligence. They can be very erudite and pretend to be empathic, because they have no moral obstacles to get things done.

Fraudsters are good at reading from us what we need most now

They are specially trained by learning the techniques and techniques of professional fraudsters. They are also generally excellent manipulators, do not resort to violence and are able to quickly and accurately assess the circumstances and behavior of people. “

Fraudsters understand human nature well and can read non-verbal signs, they use the situation of fear and well “read” from us what we need most now, and this is what they offer. I would like to exclaim: “How did you guess that this is exactly what I think about lately ?!” But it’s their “job” to figure out what to catch us with.

And how charming they are! When a person laughs, his eyes shine, and we believe him, as if depriving our inner protective barriers. In addition, in each of us, in a given situation, different positions or roles are included: adult, child, parent. “When someone addresses us from top to bottom, with an authoritative, commanding tone, he launches a response in us from the role of a child,” explains Miljana Blazic. – What role is included at this moment depends on how strongly each of the positions is developed in us.

The one who is more trusting has the most developed role of the child, and the parental position of the interlocutor “from above” in us activates it. How to proceed in this case? Call your inner parent for help, who will take care of your inner child while our inner adult deals with the scammers. It is in the position of an adult that we operate with facts, without unnecessary uncontrollable emotions. In this position, we make informed decisions. “

Coronavirus demons: how do scammers deceive us during a pandemic?

How do you protect yourself?

“First, there is no need to be afraid and panic. Fear is useful when there is a threat to life and we need to be saved, be careful and adapt to a new situation of uncertainty, continues Miljana Blazic. – In all other cases, fear is not our help: it blocks our consciousness and actions.

Secondly, in times of emergency and uncertainty, we need to collect reliable information about the rules and protections that have been introduced. It is necessary to watch the official appeals of state bodies and their representatives, read trustworthy websites, newspapers and magazines, announcements of medical institutions on how and where you can get tested for the virus and get the necessary medicines. Possession of relevant and reliable information will become a real weapon in the global information war and our personal protection. “

If you have relatives and friends whom you can promptly call to clarify something or consult immediately as soon as a dangerous situation arises, this can be an additional means of protection.

Also, keep an eye on what other know-how scammers have invented. “Be confident in yourself – not only in this situation, but always in general. Trust yourself, your eyes, your own intuition. Even if you are not in doubt, give yourself time to think, the psychologist recommends. – You have the right to let yourself breathe and calmly think about what is happening. Then the chances of making a mistake will be much less.

A sudden smile appears on his face, which can be interpreted as “I’m lucky, I’ll deceive you.”

There is such a concept – “counterintuitiveness”. Wendy Patrick, an American researcher of major crimes and the most dangerous criminals, talks about him in the book “Red flags”. The author explains the essence of the phenomenon as follows: what we are told does not correspond to what we see with our eyes and the feelings that we experience. This is a great way to check the facts.

In a further explanation of this phenomenon, the expert calls it “intuitive dissonance” and gives interesting examples from scientific research about how it manifests itself. For example, a person starts blinking with a different frequency, the toes of his legs involuntarily turn towards the exit, he uses different objects as a barrier, the tone of his voice decreases.

Other interesting examples can be found in Pamela Meyer’s book How to Recognize Lies. “The person smiles, but the wrinkles around the eyes are not involved, as with a real smile,” the psychologist quotes from the book. – A real smile is wider than a fake one.

Or the interlocutor says something in the affirmative, while shaking his head negatively. Or a sudden smile appears on his face, which can be interpreted as “I’m lucky, I’ll deceive you.” In a conversation, the interlocutor can use words of absolute negation – for example, “never.” So the deceiver tries to completely distance himself from the truth. “

The best defense is to be in contact with others, even if we are formally isolated.

Another interesting example is the observation of psychology professor David Matsumoto, who noticed that deceivers continue to provide additional information on their topic, regardless of the course of the conversation.

Despite all the tricks and techniques of scammers, we have an “antidote” – intuition, which rarely deceives us. And sometimes just common sense. You can choose the option of “non-resistance” – to get rid of the swindler and not wring your nerves.

“Prepare a fallback: keep a small amount of money in your pocket just in case you leave the house. If you happen to meet an overly assertive fraudster or you simply do not want to waste time on him and experience unnecessary stress, give him the money you have prepared and tell him that this is all you have, ”suggests Miljana Blazic.

The best defense is to be in contact with others, even if we are formally isolated. Use all available means of communication so as not to feel lonely. “Now is the time to get closer to each other. Show care and love for loved ones, take care of yourself and find meaning in these days, which we are all obliged to spend in self-isolation, ” the psychologist sums up. “Connecting with loved ones and thinking about time creatively will give you extra strength when you suddenly meet scammers.”

Miljana Blazic

About the expert

Miljana Blazic – social psychologist, psychodrama therapist. More on her page

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