According to recent statistics, over 48% of all emails sent last year were identified as spam, while the number of spam phone calls reached an all time high of 655 million.
Everywhere you go, spam continues to be a problem, even in spite of the many barriers and safeguards that email and phone providers have implemented over the years in order to minimize the scope spammers have for reaching audiences.
There are, of course, preventative measures that put control back into your hands. Getting rid of the data that spammers and scammers draw from is key, and there are several ways to stop spam by removing your digital footprint from the web. You can also take additional steps like registering your number with the FTC’s “National Do Not Call Registry”. Even still, when spam does slip through, even the most internet-savvy among us are somewhat vulnerable to deception.
The Intriguing Appeal Of Spam
The important thing to understand, then, is why exactly spam is so alluring. Although spam has been around since the 1970s, when the telemarketing industry started gaining traction, over the years it has developed to appeal to as many people as possible.
This is difficult, because everyone has different interests and passions, meaning the personalisation and customisation of spam emails is far too time-consuming. That is why spammers now use the tactic of “click-bait” – manipulative headings that make it hard to resist for anyone.
For those unaware, the way clickbait works is by activating a particular dopamine pathway in the brain, released by the promise of compelling information or reward. When you read an email or a heading that incites interest, then you are urged to click on it to “scratch the itch” that’s been given to you.
Cognitive Biases And Spam
Spam and scam attacks can happen to anyone, but spammers have found the most success in targeting age ranges between 50 to 70, or those who are more susceptible to cognitive biases.
These biases include the halo effect – which is when a victim has a positive impression of a company, product, or service, which is being impersonated – the curiosity effect – which uses the concept of click-bait, as previously discussed – authority bias – where victims are unconsciously inclined to trust emails and calls that are coming from “businesses” – and the hyperbolic effect – where victims are inclined to go along with a spam email due to the promise of small, risk-free rewards.
Lastly, one of the most prevalent methods that spammers are using include tapping into the emotional side of a victim’s decision-making, drawing upon their sympathy, empathy, fears and concerns.
One of the most talked about instances of this occurred between 2020 and 2021, when spammers were using the COVID-19 pandemic to grab the attention – whether that was by posing as a healthcare service, or baiting unvaccinated victims with incorrect information.
These emotional, topical, and “click-bait” tactics are among the most prevalent in 2023, which is why it’s so important that articles like this are written and people are made aware of them.
As mentioned before, a number of email providers and even social media platforms are attempting to resolve spamming issues, and there are several ways in which you can limit the amount of spam emails, texts, and calls that you receive every month. The important thing is to remain aware of the problem and do everything you can to avoid falling into the trap.