We all think we’re pretty observant people. We notice things that are important to us – a friend’s new shoes, the boss’ new briefcase. If we sit down with one of those “Spot the difference” puzzles we can find 5 things.

In our own minds, we can all spot a criminal, a bad website, or a fraudulent scheme. When it comes down to it though, any decent law enforcement officer will tell you that people are generally unobservant. Ask witnesses what they saw and you’ll get contradictory answers from all of them, or ‘I don’t know… it was reddish car… I think…’ Some psychologists did an experiment showing how incredibly unobservant we are. Watch how every single person is tricked.

What does this teach us about preventing fraud online? Why are people still getting tricked into giving away their information to crooks? Here’s our list.

  1. We’re unobservant. So, when I go to my bank website, if the look and feel is mildly similar to what I expect I’m likely to go ahead and try to login. Wouldn’t it be nice if my bank’s login process protected me from my tendency to be oblivious?
  2. We’re trusting. In the experiment in the video, someone trusted told subjects to complete a task. They completed it. When the authority figured changed, they didn’t question. We don’t expect to be deceived, so we aren’t vigilant to protect ourselves.
  3. Crooks look like us. There’s this little expectation we have to be able to judge a book by its cover. Ever seen a gorgeous woman on trial for something horrendous? Listen to people. “She can’t be guilty. She looks so… normal!” What they really mean is that criminals (and the websites they operate) should look mean and ugly and unprofessional. People who look like us are supposed to be like us. Websites that are attractive and well designed are supposed to be trustworthy. Or so we naively think.
  4. We’re opportunists. Yes, we know that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. That’s why we delete any Nigerian “I want to split my $5 million with you” emails that make it through our spam filters. That said, we’re trying to save time, save money, and find more efficient ways to do things. And we think others (like vendors, retailers, or whoever) are trying to do the same thing. So if a process suddenly becomes easier or we’re enticed with a discount or otherwise convenient offer, we want to believe. Why? Because we’re opportunists. And we’re trusting too.
  5. It won’t happen to me. Identity fraud is something that happens to other people. I’m not in danger, and I don’t need to worry. I shred my bills, I don’t write down my passwords, and besides – people generally have my best interest in mind (remember? I’m trusting too).