Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Scamming Granny using the first rule of cold reading

Listening to daytime NPR on my week off, and the woo jumps out of the radio.

Take this tale of woe from Talk of the Nation. Scam artist from Canada (Oh, Canada!) call numbers in the US. If the person picking up sounds elderly and female, they launch into their scam.

"Hi Grandma, it's me--your favorite grandson," they begin. They tell Granny that there in trouble up in Canada, please wire money ASAP. "And don't tell Mom and Dad; I'll be in so much trouble." Often enough, the money comes through.

You might wonder how the scammers can succeed in such cold calls without knowing so much as the name of the person they're impersonating. That's because you've never worked as a cold-reading "psychic." As is the case with Jonathan Edward and James Van Praagh, the scammers let their marks do their work for them.

"Hi Grandma, it's me--your favorite grandson!"
"I that you, Jimmy?"
"Yes Grandma; it's me, Jimmy..."

It's wrong to blame victims of crimes. But we're such easy marks. If we don't see cold-readers as scam artists, we'll be wiring that money to the Canucks in no time and with no questions asked.

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