guy gets conned, could have happened to anyone

Guy gets conned and describes the experience in detail. An excerpt:

Pulling into the graveled driveway in the rear of my apartment complex, I dismounted and prepared to lock up my bicycle in the back shed. That’s when I heard him. “Excuse me, can you help?”

Turning around, I saw him: a tall man, in his late forties by my estimation, wearing shorts and a white polo shirt, with a cross dangling from a slim silver chain around his neck. He was breathing hard, like he had just been running, or like he was desperate for help. Apparently, he was.

The mark ended up giving away $77 that night. Nothing horrendous given that some scammers end up with far more obscene amounts, but it’s the principle of the thing.

Before we all scoff at the lack of worldly knowledge of the deceived here, Ross Pomeroy (the victim and writer of the article) points out his skepticism from the get-go. He was incredulous, and yet hopeful that the person was telling the truth and trusting that he’d get his money back. It seems that he felt cynical, and was hoping that his cynicism was for naught, and that in the end he’d be paid back in full and thanked profusely for helping another human being. Unfortunately, this isn’t how it turned out.

This could have happened to anyone. While not all of us would fall for this scam, many of us would, and for good reason. Most of us, excepting those with anti-social characteristics*, want to get along and help others and be looked at favorably by both peers and by the community at large. Helping others is hard-wired into us. We help others so that others will value us and in turn reciprocate that help when we need it. It’s both natural and healthy, for individuals and for the fabric of society.

The financial loss was small; the real damage here was to Ross’s trust in others. Whenever someone is scammed and becomes cognizant of this fact, it’s typical to lose trust in others, and this loss of faith in humanity carries a price tag. Imagine a dystopian world in which no one could be trusted to keep his or her word. That’s not really the world we live in. Most people can be trusted to a large degree. A small percentage of the population though tend to lie and manipulate for personal gain, even ignoring legal ramifications for their actions. These outliers represent a threat not just in the direct sense (the direct cost of their scams) but indirectly due to the psychological damage they inflict on others and the long-standing loss of faith that their victims have in their fellow man.

Hence, we should be careful about blaming the victim for his naivete. This can and does happen to people every day, including our own family and friends.

* Anti-social in the technical sense doesn’t refer to being socially inept, though the term is commonly used that way in everyday speech. Here, anti-social refers to characteristics which defy normal social functioning, and often include persistent lying and manipulative characteristics. 

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