I received a letter in the mail from US Airlines suggesting I’d won 2 round-trip airline tickets. The letter just didn’t feel right according to the Feeling side of my brain – the side we use for most of the day on auto-pilot. And, my brain was right. But I didn’t figure out exactly why until I engaged the Thinking, or analytical side of my brain.
What was Wrong
1) US Airlines does not exist. US Airways does.
2) There was no street address or web address on the letterhead.
3) Weasel words like “qualified” versus “won” and “Certain restrictions apply” were used.
Beware The Emotional Appeal
The letter was definitely appealing to the Feeling side of my brain. First of all, this is a peak travel time of the year. Who wouldn’t want free tickets to visit a loved one over the holiday season? The words also invoked a sense of urgency by saying I “..must respond no later than November 21st…”. And of course, they played on my Fear of Missing Out by saying “If we do not hear from you soon, we may need to issue the ticket vouchers to an alternate.” If I didn’t call, someone else would get the award.
There are so many scams and illegitimate offers out there, we should be catching them all. And yet these scams continue because people actually fall for them. As a cynic, my scam radar is especially high and so my gut, my Feeling brain, told me something wasn’t right. But not everyone’s Feeling brain has accumulated learning around scams, and may have reacted to the excitement of a possible reward.
Assume a Scam Until Proven Otherwise
If you receive an offer that seems too good to be true, protect yourself. Wake up your analytical brain and do some investigative work. This scam was for a travel club where you had to “join” with an upfront membership to enjoy awards. Avoiding the phone call will save you time, and possibly money on the “too good to be true” travel membership.
Carrie Rattle is a Principal at BehavioralCents.com, a web site for women focused on the mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Thoughts always welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.