Crypto, Scams & Ableism

Since the Scam Banking Fraud fiasco in the crypto world, I have looked a bit more into cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Not much, just to satisfy some curiosity. That curiosity brought me to the YouTube channel Coffezilla (which I recommend). And today I would like to mention a bit unsavory and unfortunate thing that crops up in just about every discussion about cryptocurrencies and associated scams – comments along the lines of “People this stupid deserve to be scammed”. Sentiments akin to this are very prevalent and I must say, I disagree with them now although I do have an inner tendency towards such thinking too and I have to reason myself out of it in some specific cases and I would possibly say these things too about twenty-five years ago.

Why is that? I mean, why is this sentiment so prevalent? I do not know of course, but I can speculate.

I think it is in part because a lot of people in the west are conditioned to believe in the Just World Fallacy. In most fiction, the villains get their just desserts and the good guys more often than not win. We are taught that hard and honest work is rewarded and that crime does not pay. This cultural bias is everywhere and unavoidable. And it is inherently ableist because no matter how difficult it is to actually meaningfully measure intelligence, it does exist, it does wary among people and some people are innately, with no fault of their own, less capable and thus more susceptible to being hoodwinked. There is a reason why so many e-mail scams have appallingly bad grammar and spelling and why so many phone scams are targeting elderly people.

It is not all though. Another part of this is in my opinion that a lot of people enjoy the warmth of a slightly smug feeling of being superior to someone in some way. “Haha, how those poor suckers could fall for THAT.” This is understandable to some degree in insecure people who are still finding themselves but not appropriate for well-adjusted adults. As for myself, today I have plenty of personal experiences to put me down from my pedestal whenever I feel like climbing one – the most recently my tribulations of obstinately plugging the wrong cable into the wrong hole for two days and wondering why things do not work. I know I am not completely stupid and still, my brain sometimes does things that a duckling would deem daft. Not to mention the GIGO principle, which can lead even the best of the best minds astray.

And even when one knows that the world is not just and that smart people can do daft things for a variety of reasons, I guess many people also know at least someone who is definitively willfully stupid and simply cannot be reasoned with because they refuse reason on principle. The most egregious examples of these people are all those creationists, flat-earthers and Q-anoninsts out there. But is it OK to say that someone deserved to be scammed because they ignored warnings and information given to them?

I still don’t think so. If they really were given credible warnings and ignored them for example, then they are to be blamed at least in part for their misfortune in such a case, but they do not deserve it. Saying that someone deserves to be scammed implies that scamming is an act of justice.

It is not. It is an act of malice, a betrayal of trust, and nothing is gained by it. The victim may become less naive and trusting as a result, but that is only a good thing in a society where there are scammers. And whilst being naive and trusting is unwise in our world, it is not malicious or harmful, and punishing it thus makes no sense. A scammer deserves to be judged and locked up. A scammee deserves help.


  1. says

    A few times I’ve ranked categories of bastard I hate the most in this world, and con artists are always within the top three, along with nazis. The third has more variability, but those two always slide in there somewhere.

    The con stands for confidence, playing on somebody’s willingness to trust. Exploiting a fundamental instinct of a social species to do harm. Con men are the scum of the earth. Movies like “The Sting” are cute, until you grow up and watch the MLMs and call centers full of creeps badgering your grandparents 24-7, the snake oil peddlers, the bought politicians easing any regulation on untruth as kickbacks to these people…

    I feel weary just belonging to the same species as these predators.

  2. rockwhisperer says

    “I could never be scammed” is a fundamentally arrogant belief, and my experience is that arrogance tends to trip up the arrogant person. (Been there, done that, though it didn’t involve being scammed.)

    For most of my adult life, after getting past the young adult arrogance, I have been a cautious, even suspicious, and pragmatic person. This assuredly means I’ve missed out on opportunities, both to enrich myself (in multiple senses of the word) and to help others who were deserving of help. Being an atheist, if I’ve missed out, I’ve missed out. I don’t believe in heavenly rewards or reincarnation do-overs. But my approach to life has probably helped me avoid scams. Or maybe I’ve just been lucky. (It’s a form of arrogance to discount luck.)

    People who open themselves to experiences and opportunities are more likely to be conned, simply because scammers are [insert several expletives] people who don’t care if they hurt others, and successful ones work hard at exploiting people’s curiosity, goodwill, and openness. And yet, those open people might well die having lived lives much richer than my own.

    It’s all part of being human, and scamming is one of the downsides of us being such a social species. Doesn’t mean I don’t believe in (metaphorically) nailing scammers to the wall when they’re caught.

  3. moarscienceplz says

    When it comes to crypto, I have to disagree. Fundamentally, what are cryptocurrencies? They are an attempt to make a money market that no government can track or control. Why would people want such a thing? Probably because they want to do illegal stuff -- evade taxes, buy illegal drugs, trade in child pornography. Sure, some people are buying them not because they plan to do anything nefarious, but because they are paranoid about governments, but I don’t care about their paranoia. They are just like the people who bought stuff that Alex Jones touted, they are enablers of evil. Then there are the people who recognise this is a pyramid scheme and just hope to skim off some cream and let other people lose their shirts when the pyramid collapses. Fuck them.
    I say ANYBODY who buys crypto deserves to be hurt. Fuck them all.

  4. says

    @moarscienceplz, It appears you are one of those people who likes to indulge in self-shoulder patting. In your haste to feel superior over all the “other” people you put in the same bag you neglected to consider that there are more reasons why people might buy cryptocurrencies and NFTs than wanting to indulge in criminal activity or being extremely paranoid about government.

    There are for example no doubt plenty of people who are not savvy enough to recognize that cryptocurrencies are just hot air and pyramid schemes and who honestly think that investing in crypto is just a new, modern alternative to other types of investment.

    Not to mention that there are plenty of people around the world generally and even in the USA specifically who have very legitimate reasons for being paranoid about their government because their government fucked them over and keeps doing it.

    And lastly your glibness about dismissing paranoia (which can be a medical condition with which I had a very real personal experience very recently) you are in fact one of those very people who inspired me to write this article in the first place, so congratulations, I guess?

    Please reconsider your approach and reasoning.

  5. Dunc says

    It’s very similar to an attitude I see a lot around lotteries… People frequently describe lottery tickets as “a tax on stupidity”, in the belief that the only reason people buy them is that they don’t understand how unlikely they are to win. But the truth is that a lot of people buy lottery tickets or invest in crypto not because they’re stupid, but because they’re desperate. They know the odds are terrible, but even terrible odds are better nothing, and there’s a lot of people out there with basically no realistic hope of improving their situation through other means.

  6. says

    I’ll admit, hearing about people losing money in crypto usually elicits in me the desire to get popcorn. Not because I think them stupid and therefore deserving of punishment. I teach kids who are what you would conventionally call “stupid”: They are slow learners, they are years behind their peers, not for lack of trying, and sometimes it’s really hard to try and find a way, a method, an example that allows them to learn certain things, and when they finally manage, they deserve to be proud and be celebrated because they worked hard and achieved something.
    Cryptobros are something different. They are usually educated, with money to spare, and smug arrogant assholes who spend every lecturing every person and their dog about how they are so much smarter, so much better, and so much richer. I feel zero sympathy for them, but sometimes for their families whose lives they ruin alongside.

  7. rockwhisperer says

    @Dunc #5,
    My extremely smart husband spends a little money that we can absolutely afford to lose on lotteries when the “pot odds”--for lack of a better term--seem to justify the expense to him. It is purely recreational spending. Not my thing, so I stay out of it, but I don’t have a problem with it. Husband and I are comfortable and have a good retirement plan, which will kick in a bit less than two years from now.

    Some people gamble for fun, and that probably includes a lot of lottery players. There is a whole gambling industry, and it doesn’t only serve desperate people. In the part of the US where I live (California), a lot of Native American tribes operate casino resorts. Where we will retire in Eastern California, we are close to the border with Nevada and will do most of our shopping there. Casino gambling is normal in that state. Neither Husband nor I are into casino gambling, but we’re also aware that most gamblers are doing so as a recreational activity, not as one of desperation.

    Which doesn’t negate the assertion that far too many US citizens/residents face a difficult future, and aren’t able to escape it. I believe that those of us who can help, are ethically obligated to do so, in ways that don’t challenge anyone’s agency or dignity (which means, choose your charities carefully). Another way of helping is to vote carefully, with the needs of ordinary people in mind.

    Burt please don’t try to pigeonhole gamblers. Humans are complicated.

  8. archie alexander says

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  9. says

    Fascinating. In a post about crypto scams, we get a crypto scam shill. Well, no spam filter is perfect. I am leaving the post up but without the contact info.

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