New Spam Tactic: Scarcity

by The Business Protector on June 28, 2011

One of the favorite “tricks” that marketers like to use is scarcity. You’ve seen it in action:

  • Order Today And Save 10%!
  • This Special Offer Expires At Midnight Sunday!
  • Only 17 Copies Left — And Then This Offer Disappears FOREVER!

In some cases, it’s legitimate. If I’m going to offer email consulting, I’m going to have to limit the number of slots that I sell, simply because there are only so many hours in a day. In many cases, though, it’s artificial in that the scarcity is arbitrary.

Nevertheless, some people use it as an effective (and, in my opinion, legitimate) marketing tactic. Marketers frequently offer “introductory specials” to “reward” loyal customers and will keep the price of a new product low for a set amount of time. In other cases, marketers think that a product will sell “x” number of copies and will only have that many copies made — and when they are gone, they don’t want to pay again for another production run.

In most cases, however, the scarcity is fake. You can find scripts to install on a sales letter that will count down the time left to get the special offer — and refreshing the page will start the countdown all over again! Others are more sophisticated and will write a cookie to your computer (to prevent the “refresh” trick); however, deleting the cookies will start the clock all over again.

Of course, some actually record an IP address on their web server so that these “tricks” don’t work, and in that case, it’s not really artificial. They are trying to get their site visitors to take fast action, and at least are consistent across the board in their approach. Be careful at such sites, though, especially if the site has a “no refund” policy; you may end up being pressured into buying something you don’t really need, simply based on that annoying countdown clock, and end up wasting your hard-earned money.

Of note, however, is a spam / phishing email that I received today. It was one of those typical bank notifications, stating that my account had been disabled because somebody logged in to it from an “unknown IP address” (I thought all of them were known!) — and would you please click on this link (which leads to an IP address that is registered to a technical university in China) to “update your billing information”.

Yeah, right.

But this one went a step further and added a scarcity element:

P.S. — The link in this message will be expire within 24 Hours . You have to update your payment information.

We’ll skip the grammar and capitalization errors (which are a tell-tale sign of a scam). What matters here is that these particular spammers seem to understand marketing and scarcity.

I’ve never seen this in a spam / phish email before and thought that this was extremely interesting. By being aware of marketing tactics (like scarcity), not only can you save money when encountering a sales pitch — you may also help keep yourself from getting scammed and having your identity stolen.

Just two last notes:

  1. When you encounter these scarcity tactics on a legitimate site (like mine!), take advantage of it if you think you can use what’s being offered; otherwise, “just say no”. If you discover later that you really need something that will solve a problem or help you make money, then it will still be worth the price after the special offer is over. Only buy things that you really need. And if it’s an offer that will soon be “gone forever” — trust me, somebody else will be offering it soon enough…
  2. Yes, I use these tactics in my offers; however, if I say that something is “limited”, it truly is. I am very strict about such things and (almost) without exception do what I say I’m going to do (I added “almost” because I am not perfect). I limit them to “introductory” or truly “special” offers — or in some cases, limit the number available due to practical considerations, especially if it involves giving of my time.


DISCLAIMER: This post does NOT contain any affiliate links. It’s pure content. I promise to do my best to not let that happen too terribly often…

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