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Even Smart People Are Fooled by Fraud

Would you invest with someone who guarantees a 50% annual return with no risk of loss? Would you reply to an email offering you a share of a lost treasure in a far-away country, in exchange for sending just a little bit of money to kickstart the recovery effort? Would you buy a Picasso or a Dali from a late-night infomercial?

We didn’t think so. But many people do fall for scams like these. Why? Are the victims uneducated, unintelligent, or constitutionally naïve? Unfortunately for all of us, the answer is no. Even people at the top of their professions can be taken in.

Several former cabinet secretaries were convinced to join the board of Theranos, whose founder, Elizabeth Holmes, was convicted of criminal fraud. Wealthy art collectors bought phony paintings from a famous Manhattan gallery. According to the FBI, phishing scams led to losses of more than $43 billion between 2016 and 2021.

In their book Nobody’s Fool: Why We Get Taken In and What We Can Do About It, two researchers write:

Frauds are ever evolving and can be complex and sophisticated, but even simple ploys can take us in … Most of the scams people fall for today are not really new; they are remixes and mashups of tricks that have worked for generations … Taking steps to avoid deception means we have to abandon the myth that only the gullible can be taken in. There are scams out there waiting for each of us, no matter how sophisticated we think we are. Rather than “it can’t happen to me,” your mantra should be “accept less, check more.”

Possible Preaching Angles:

1) Money; Finances – Even the financially savvy can be taken in by a lack of vigilance or a desire for quick profits or a slick sales pitch; 2) Deceiver; Deception; Satan – This is especially good advice for our defense against our spiritual enemy, Satan. He has thousands of years of experience in deceiving people and we must keep our grip on the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:10-17).

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