This one thing could make you more susceptible to scams

In the first six months of this year, Australians lost $45 million to scammers, with a further 45,000 complaints made about fraudsters trying one way or another to steal people’s money.

But why do some people get targeted more than others? And why do others fall for what appears to be a blatant scam?

The answer could be a person’s disposition.

A University of New South Wales study has found that happy, optimistic people are more likely to fall prey to fraud.

“Based on past research on interpersonal communication and recent work on affect and social cognition, we predicted and found that negative mood increased and positive mood decreased people’s skepticism and their ability to detect deception,” the study authors write.

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After inducing certain moods in their subjects then submitting them to a interviews with people denying they had committed a theft, the researchers found negative mood increased a person’s skepticism and improved their accuracy in detecting deceptive communications, while the people in a positive mood were more trusting and gullible.

However, Angela Bradley from the Mood and Mind Centre in Queensland says this is only part of the story. She told The Age that negative people notice more negative things, because they are already “scanning for them”.

And while disposition may be one determinant of your risk for being scammed, unfortunately, age is another. Neuroscientist Erik Asp has identified the part of your brain that dictates your capacity for scepticism: the ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex, just above the eyes.

This is the part of your brain that assesses whether new information is true or not and, unfortunately, degenerates as we age.

That doesn’t mean we all need to be gullible, of course. With age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes a healthy dose of scepticism. And for Starts at 60 readers especially, being savvy to scammers tricks is the best defence there is.

Would you say you are a gullible or sceptical person? Do you know anyone who has been scammed? Does this theory hold up against their personality?