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Sunday, April 03, 2016

Facebook, Twitter friends: Beware of the Trojan Horse in Your Backyard..!

Facebook, Twitter friends: Beware of the Trojan Horse in Your Backyard..!

by Mr. UMA SHASHIKANT, Centre for Investment Education and Learning

A fraudulent young lady skimmed my Facebook friends last week. She added herself as my follower. added herself as my follower.

Then she accessed my friends list. She initiated interactions with a distress message, seeking my contact details.

For those who responded to this with concern, she explained that her child needed emergency surgery . Those who continued to respond to her messages soon received her bank account details.
UMA SHASHIKANT,
Centre for Investment Education and Learning

Before I woke up to an inbox full of messages asking me if Archana Rengarajan was genuine and needed help, she had received a tidy sum in her account from multiple donors.

Her FB `friends' list simply had one thing in common -my name.

Why do we help total strangers?

Pro-social behaviour (a term coined to represent the opposite of harmful anti-social behaviour) has been seen as somewhat irrational by economists and inexplicable by social scientists.

Why would someone incur a cost with no benefit in sight?

Or why would one move away from the evolutionary need to be selfish and self-preserving?

Research shows that people across cultures, geographies and religious affinity exhibit the ability and willingness to donate, volunteer, help, support and assist fellow human beings, including strangers whom they are unlikely to meet again.

However, not everyone is natu rally generous. Research into the working of the brain and our decision-making behaviours has shown that we seem to have two systems in place -the hot, quick and intuitive system that responds spontaneously , and the cool, slow and reflective system that conditions us to decide carefully .

Much of the early work on generosity indicated that we take time to reflect and overcome our need to be selfish before helping others.

Recent research, however, has shown that generosity might be impulsive.Our brain dislikes the burden of analysis and creates quick short cuts so we can decide without much effort.

Our ability to be generous seems to depend on how we make that decision. If it is a quick, intuitive and immediate response, we do not seek information, but act spontaneously .If it is a slow, considered and controlled response, we seek more information, and are quite likely to change our mind.

Questioning recipients of bravery awards have shown that those who jumped into danger to rescue someone else did not pause to think. The common factor in all those acts was spontaneity . 
One of the many anecdotes from Mahabharata is the story of Karna's generosity .
When asked why he was giving away with both hands, Karna replied that the act of giving has to be quick because before the right hand receives the object that the left hand has picked up, one might change one's mind about giving it away. 

Fraudsters like Archana appeal to this impulse of quick action. When a fraudster finds his way into someone's inbox, the person's reaction depends on their sub-conscious rules. Not everyone asks the most rational of questions, instead, most people simply check off a few boxes in their mind.

 What are the boxes that Archana's story seems to have checked?

First, research shows that donors are more likely to respond to actual photographs rather than silhouettes.

When someone identifies themselves they send out a message that they trust the others.
Second, donors are more likely to respond to a specific cause rather than a generic idea.Many who care about the world's problems of hunger, illness and poverty do not act on that concern, as it is too generic to evoke action.

A specific request citing a child's name, an illness, the name of a hospital, and the treatment made Archana's claims specific and evoked action. It is easy for fraudsters to create a case that appeals to this instinct.

Third, donors act when they sense an emergency , and when they find themselves in a position of positive contribution.

By telling her new `friends' that she was unable to contact me for help, and that she was seeking them out since they knew me, Archana elicited a psychological responses to the need for action.

She made her conversations about them, rather than about herself and the child. She tapped into their sense of empathy without overdoing it.

Fourth, donors find it difficult to get out of a situation of engagement leading to a donation.

Those who responded to her first message engaged in a conversation with her, which she cleverly navigated into a series of interactions culminating in her bank details.-


The writer is managing director is Centre for Investment Education and Learning
Facebook, Twitter friends: Beware of the Trojan Horse in Your Backyard..! Reviewed by S. Chitra on April 03, 2016 Rating: 5 Facebook, Twitter friends: Beware of the Trojan Horse in Your Backyard..! by Mr. UMA SHASHIKANT, Centre for Investment Education and Le...

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