23 May 2017

How to beat a con-man


So now my computer is chugging at the wavelet analysis and refuses to accept any other task (analysis is demanding), and I started working on other stuff. One of them is double checking my own toolsets for recognizing swindlers and false news. So I decided this week to tell you about it.

When you are in the place where you can meet thousands of strangers every day, you need a defense against con-men. You have to be wary of the cons, anywhere where swindler can act anonymously and run away before you can alert law-enforcement.
And the internet is one of those places. To make things worse, the laws to protect you from swindlers online are just starting to appear. Thanks to the fact that our legislators are as computer literate as average grandma, the laws they are proposing or passing are usually useless or worse, help swindlers instead of protecting you.
I grew up in a big city and ended up a victim of a few con-men along the way. I experienced all the frustration on being swindled, ending up with the significant loss and not being able to do anything about it. I did not know the name of the con-man, I did not have evidence and reporting events like that to police when one is teenager ends up with a mild lecture to be careful next time.
So, at the early stage of my life, I learned how to defend myself against swindlers. And defense is simple. Learn what tricks they use to swindle you. When you learn, even just broadly, how fraudsters scam people, it gets easier to recognize the con.
I learned that swindlers are playing to your emotions and ego. They start by making you feel special and good about yourself and them. They are telling you stuff that can be boiled down to this message: You’re great, any misfortune is a deed of the other bad people. They use loads of logical fallacies and plain old lies to present their agenda as valid. They also use fear and play on your emotions to urge to act as soon as possible, not giving you time to think. And then they start milking you for money or favors. When the milking is complete, they dump you and go to the next victim.
In areas where there are loads of people, this approach works because most of our ancestors or us live and move in small communities where reputation is used as a method to identify swindlers. And we tend automatically to go with reputation method. I mean, how many times you've judged the morality of the person by their appearance, although logically, those are never connected.
But reputation does not work in places where swindler can just meld into crowds. It does not function in places where people use generalizations and prejudices instead of merit to judge the moral value of the individual. Instead, everybody has to learn how to recognize swindlers, even when they look like exactly as you imagine an honest person.
And, not surprisingly, there is a scientific confirmation for the method I learned the hard way as a teenager.
Recently, I found an article about how to Neutralize misinformation . Authors call it inoculation, and in the way it is. You learn swindlers techniques, and it gets easier to recognize them and protect yourself from people who are trying to manipulate you for their own benefit.
For me, this article was one of ‘No-Shiite-Sherlock’ types, because I had to learn this hard way as a kid. But people that did not grow up in areas where they met a thousand strangers every day need this knowledge, especially today when we saw how destructive swindlers can be when they use the internet.
There is also a version for non-scientists, in this article.
In essence, they confirm my hard-learned lessons. Learn the tricks swindlers use so you could recognize them easier. Learn about the logical fallacies, what they are and how they are used to distort facts.
There are also few TED talks touching the similar subjects, and explain today’s disguise of the lies as facts (Behind the lies of Holocaust denial by D. Lipstadt) or even how your little bubble of social media helps crooks (How to exploit democracy by L. Galante)
Those two talks make my hackles rise. Although speakers did not explicitly mention, they said that social media is making you a prisoner of your own bubble. A bubble created to make you feel better, to make you comfortable. Basically golden cage, where you should keep on clicking on adds to bring profit to a social media provider, and not worry your pretty little head about anything else.
Of course swindlers will find the way to get a piece of that cake, and of course, no social media provider will burst your bubble. Through bubble, they have access to our minds, and they can make us believe that we’re clicking those ads because we want to, not because they gave us incomplete information.
So if you wish to protect yourself, you have to learn about how swindling is done on the internet. It will help you a lot, not only that that skill will protect you from the most swindlers but also it will have blessed side effect of developing immunity for the adds, and ability to recognize adds even when they are disguised as a random post on your social media. Because the reason why social media leveled the values of lies and facts is money. That’s how they earn money. Just think. When did you last time, if ever, seen an honest add?
For me, this inoculation is worth every effort.
So, read up about the science and scientific method, learn about logical fallacies, and use bias checking methods even on your own thinking. From my own experience, you might end up with a peaceful everyday life where everything starts to go smoother.
BTW. If you are interested in the methods, I use, comment below. If there is enough interest, I will write a post about each and every technique I use.

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