Monday, November 9, 2015

Saying 'No' can save your life

Do you have difficulty saying no to people?  Especially if they are assertive and forceful?  You are not alone.  I will explain how scammers exploit our inability to say no in more ways than one. 

Some people have difficulty saying firm 'NO' to people that are forceful, whereas some get rebellious when they encounter those with arrogant or forceful personalities.  If you recognise yourself as someone who has difficulty with strong personalities, you may be vulnerable to specific scam techniques, especially when the scam is executed face to face.  Scammers look for victims that are going to comply and often can tell within a few seconds of meeting you, whether you are likely to be a victim.  If you find confrontations uncomfortable and have been known to go along with things that you don't want to do when people assert themselves over you, then you are particularly vulnerable to forceful scam techniques employed by scammers that usually target people door to door.  Often we are brought up to be polite and saying no somehow registered as being rude, especially if we feel that we have wasted someone's time.  This is why double glazing salesmen come to your home for 3 hour demonstration; after 3 hours you are likely to feel guilty you wasted their time, despite the fact you don't owe them anything and it is up to them how long they take demonstrating.  Many people have difficulties saying no for this reason.  So what can you do about it?  First of all, it is good to be aware of individual vulnerability and look for ways of adapting to avoid situations that would lead to compliance with unwanted purchases/deals.  

1. Practice saying 'no, thank you'.  It is perfectly OK to say no to people.  If they are selling something and spent time telling you about it, don't feel guilty as this is their job.  You only need to decide if you want what they are selling.   

2. Understand that this will make you vulnerable to similar things forever and think of ways of getting out of situations that force you to feel uncomfortable.  One of the people I spoke to that had a similar problem told me that he lies to people in such situations, telling them he has no money at present.  You can also say you need someone else to make a decision before going ahead.  For example, you can say; I want to ask my son/daughter, who is a police detective, for an opinion as I always run all decisions past them.  If the salesmen mocks you for wanting to run a decision past someone first, please be aware this is also a persuasion technique and don't give in.  Who cares what a random stranger selling you something thinks of you.  

3. Another thing you can do is to tell them to come back when someone else is with you.  This is not a no, it is more 'not now'.  Genuine salesmen will respect this and come back another time.  Ask them to make a solid appointment or give you the number to call to make an appointment when you arrange with a friend/family member to be present.  

If you think that only people who have difficulty with pushy scammers are vulnerable, think again.  Even if you react to forceful and aggressive people pushing you to do something you don't want to do, you can still be caught out by inability to say no, but it will be more subliminal. 

We tend to comply more when a person before us is affable, likeable or appears to be similar to us.  This is how scammers get our trust quickly.  In the absence of any solid experience with the person in front of us, our brain will make short cuts and concentrates on certain features; attire, politeness and so on.  We all make judgements on daily basis and often these judgments need to be quick, therefore they are based on our previous experience.  For example; if you dealt with a person of a certain religion, race and so on...and you had good experience, it is likely that you will assign that good experience to a whole religion or race until you get a different experience.  Same with people who seem similar to us in some way.  Scammers often impersonate their victims for this reason; they may say they grew up locally, know someone from the country you are from and so on.  They may ask you questions about your life style and tell you they feel the same about certain things you tell them.  All of this will make you like them more and the more you like them, the less able you will be to say no when they make a request for a payment.  So what can you do in such situations? 

1. Understand that saying no to someone who is trying to sell you something is not the same as saying no to someone who helped you many times before and is an established friend.  You don't owe them anything, even if you feel that you do, this is just psychology.  

2. Be extra careful if someone you are dealing with (where large sums of money are involved or where someone asks you for money) seem to be 'your kind of person' or seems to click with you, especially in a short time frame.  This is especially true of romance scammers - they will often be great listeners and the more you tell them about what you need/want, they more they will appear to be just what you are looking for.  You can lie and say you have no money just now.  Or talk it over with friends and family to get a non biased opinion, but also listen to their opinion.  Many people disregard their friends or family's opinion.  As they say... two heads are better than one.  It really is true. 

3.  A truly nice salesman will always be as friendly the next day or next week.  Make a rule to never do anything in the moment.  Come back tomorrow or arrange another meeting if you really want the product.  Use the time to think about the product/investment away from the person selling it.  When you separate the two, you may realise that you liked the product because you actually liked the person selling it.  

And always, use the time away to check the facts in every possible way before you commit to parting with your money. 

I am currently running a scam vulnerability study. If you have been affected by a scam, please help me by filling a survey. The research aims to develop a measure of vulnerability to fraud.  University of Portsmouth research, ethics committee approved.