The Free iPad, (or iPhone,or holiday, or car, or house) scam.

Recently, someone asked me, “What’s the harm in these offers of free iPhones, (iPads, or holidays, or whatever)? I’ve nothing to lose, have I? And I might win. They can’t all be scams, can they?”

Well, actually, they are all scams. Every single one. All right, supposing one in a million does get a free iPhone, (or whatever). Well, you can be pretty sure that that person was in on it anyway. If you are asked questions, or asked to “go through three simple stages” those are all to get past the Gamings and Lotteries Act. You see, if it were just a lottery, they would have to give a breakdown of who entered and who won and when. If it’s a competition, then the judges, (i.e. the organisers) can decide, pretty much.

“Ah, but,” you may ask, “if they aren’t asking for money, then I’ve nothing to lose.” Well, there’s your time — for a start. And they know that people can be hooked. If they get you to waste your time, then at least two fallacies come into play. First, there’s the ‘sunk cost fallacy’. That’s where you think, (in a sense) “I’ve invested my time in this, I don’t want to lose that investment.” But that time is a sunk cost. It’s gone. Wasted. You won’t get it back. Be it money or time, a sunk cost is gone for good. It’s like walking ten miles, discovering you’re going in the wrong direction and thinking, “Well, I can’t waste the miles I’ve walked. I’ll keep walking this way, and something may come of it.” Put in those terms, I think you’ll agree it sounds pretty silly. But in time or money terms, it is no better. The second fallacy is the gambler’s dilemma fallacy. This is where people believe: “If red comes up ten times in succession, then — by the law of averages — black is bound to come up soon. But there is no reason in the world that this should be the case. Casinos make their fortunes on the backs of people who believe in this ‘law of averages’ or ‘gambler’s fallacy’. A ‘run of bad luck’ can go on forever, just as global warming will go on forever, unless we work very very hard to stop and reverse it. And some climatologists believe this may be impossible. But people continue to ‘have another go’ until it becomes a habit. They become addicted to these games. And inevitably, sooner or later, the trap is sprung.

Because there is another factor. It is an odd psychological trait, something that I was taught when I was a student member of the Institute of Marketing, and that is: get someone to agree to a little thing, perhaps something that costs very little or nothing, and they will the more readily agree to do something that costs something, or even a great deal. I’ve fallen victim to this kind of thing in the past. Oh yes, I can be — and have been —gullible! People are particularly vulnerable when they have little, when they are unemployed, for instance. “To those who have, more shall be given. And to those who have not, even that they do have shall be taken away”. This is just a straight forward law of how scams work.

So, I hope you’ll join me in this resolution: to just say no to the offers of free iPads, holidays, cars, and holiday homes. Nip it in the bud before it starts to bite!


About Zoe Nightingale

I am a writer of short stories, novels, poetry and non fiction.
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