Would you unlock your phone for the police?

Before saying NO, a study that was published in the Yale Journal argues differently. Here is what they found. They had 2 groups of people. Group 1 was asked to unlock their phones and hand them over to an experimenter while they waited in another room. Group 2 was asked hypothetically if they think a reasonable person would be willing to unlock their phones and hand them over to an experimenter. The majority of people in Group 2 answered that a reasonable person would refuse to unlock their phone, HOWEVER, 100 out of 103 people in Group 1 unlocked their phones and handed them over. 

Then, they performed the experiment again, and this time they told Group 1 that they don’t have to… but guess what? It didn’t change the results significantly. 

In reality, it’s difficult for many people to say NO to someone in authority. 

And that is why many SCAM phone calls and phishing emails originate from people who claim to be in a position of authority. It could be a phone call posing to be from the IRS, the police, FBI, or an urgent email from your CEO.

It Happens In The Real World And The Digital World

When we are put on the spot it’s not the same as when we read about how someone was scammed. It’s not about being gullible, it’s human nature. That is why we should be aware and make it a habit to take a moment when faced with this circumstance and let the emotions settle down.

In the virtual word this is even more important, because you never really know who is on the other side of the emails, message or phone call.

Here is an example how Donna was scammed by Nick the "CFO" and how scammers use authority to trick her into taking an action she wouldn't normally take without checking first. Get a full breakdown of the behind-the-scenes in this type of scam here.


What should you do in this situation?

Well, if something seems off it's best to verify. Politely end the conversation and call the person through a trusted number. If it's someone you don't usually report to, like a CFO, then contact your manager to get their take on the request. If the person on the other end of the line tries to get you to not hang up that's likely a red flag.

Someone claiming to be from the IRS, police, or FBI? Know they would never do a suprise summons, most initial notifications come in writing. You can contact the local FBI field rep or local police station from a trusted number to verify (or report!) any concerning summons.