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If You Have These 6 Personality Traits, You’re More Vulnerable to Phishing Scams

A huge number of people fall victim to phishing scams every year. Phishing is a social engineering tactic by which scammers typically contact people via email, SMS, os social media, purporting to be from a reputable institution in an effort to get sensitive data or money from the victim.

So some people may be surprised to learn their personality can make them more susceptible to these cyber threats. What are the top six traits that increase your vulnerability to phishing scams?

1. Extroverted

Extraversion can make you more vulnerable to phishing scams. A University of Toronto study found extroverts tend to be more goal-motivated, social, and confident. These are usually positive traits, but they can also make it easier for scammers to take advantage of extroverts.

Introverts, on the other hand, are more likely to take time to reflect and plan before making a decision. They’re also less likely to engage in social situations, including social media, which can be a major hub for scams. Introverts, then, tend to expose themselves to fewer scam risks than extroverts often do.

In a phishing scam, an extrovert can be at an unknown disadvantage due to their personality traits. For example, a common malware scam sends victims a fake message from McAfee security telling them their antivirus protection is expired. It states exactly how to respond and gives them a clear button to press to reactivate their “protection.”

An extrovert would be more likely to see this and respond to the goal motivation of protecting their device from viruses. Their common positive thinking patterns also mean they may be less likely to be suspicious of such messages.

2. Agreeable

social gathering around laptops

Usually, it’s a good thing to be an agreeable person. It means you’re typically compassionate and good at working with others. Unfortunately, phishing scammers often exploit this trait using emotions like pity, distress, or desperation because agreeable people tend to be particularly empathetic.

For example, a scammer might send an email posing as a co-worker begging you to buy some gift cards to help them out of a tight spot. Or someone might contact them saying they’re on vacation and need a quick cash injection to get them home. Agreeable people are often eager to help others and may be more prone to jump at the chance to do so.

3. People-Pleasing

People-pleasers tend to go out of their way to make others happy or get others what they need. This trait can make you more susceptible to phishing scams because you may be more likely to fall for seemingly desperate or urgent requests.

For example, a scammer might pose as one of your Facebook friends. They might ask for money for an urgent medical situation or another time-sensitive need. Someone who is people-pleasing is at a much higher risk of caving to spontaneous requests from others, which is perfect for this type of phishing scam.

4. Quick to Trust

People who are naive or trusting can be prime targets for phishing scams. They’re often open, optimistic, or idealistic. These people don’t tend to see others as a threat until it’s too late. This natural lack of suspicion makes it easy for scammers to exploit highly trusting people.

In contrast, someone who is naturally more skeptical or suspicious of others is more likely to ignore a scam message or investigate its origins. As a result, these people are more likely to notice the red flags of a phishing scam and less likely to fall victim to one.

A great example of a phishing scam exploiting implicit trust is the 2014 Sony Pictures data leak, one of the most costly phishing attacks in history, which involved fake emails from Apple. The phishing emails requested urgent responses to a security threat facing victims’ accounts. At least one person at Sony was quick to trust the message since it appeared to be from Apple’s security team.

5. Fear of or Respect for Authority

a businessman in front of some steps

It’s important to show respect for authority figures like your boss at work or representatives of government organizations. However, excessive respect for or fear of authority figures can make you more vulnerable to phishing scams. Hackers and scammers often pose as authority figures to scare victims or quickly gain their trust.

A phishing email, for instance, might be disguised as an urgent request from your boss. Scammers also frequently pose as representatives of the IRS or local law enforcement. These tactics leverage authority figures’ power to scare victims into impulsively complying with their demands.

6. Poor Self-Control

Self-control plays a big role in whether or not someone falls victim to phishing scams. One of the most common tactics hackers and scammers use is urgency. They know if their target does research and takes time to investigate, they’ll notice something is amiss and the scam will fail. So, scammers often design their attacks to trigger reckless, impulsive reactions.

They usually accomplish this using either fear or opportunity. Cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes are among the most common scams online today. These threats buy into the current zeitgeist, and try to get victims excited about some new crypto coin, only to steal their money and give them nothing in return.

On the other end of the spectrum is the fear response. A typical example of this type of phishing scam is fake messages from the IRS. Scammers pose as an IRS representative, often threatening arrest or jail time if the victim does not pay a certain amount of money. People with poor self-control are more likely to cave to a reckless fear response in this type of scam.

Staying Safe From Phishing Scams

If you think you may have one of the personality traits on this list, you’ve already taken the first step toward protecting yourself from scams. Awareness can go a long way toward avoiding phishing tricks. The next time you come across a suspicious message, remember to pause, investigate the source of the message, and think carefully before reacting to it.


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