When Design Is Used For Evil

I’ve never fallen for a phishing scam. When they first started popping up somewhere in the early 2000s, I nearly gave all my personal information to a website made to look like Paypal. Thankfully I realized something felt phishy about it and I notice the URL was way off. I dodged a bullet and I’ve never come close since. Detecting phishing emails and sites comes naturally to me.

What I’m not used to seeing is phishing scams that come in the regular mail. In the state of Colorado, if you start a new corporation (not an LLC), a company called Poster Compliance Service will send you a document in the mail that looks like this:

For someone who hates nearly all matters of bureaucracy, I absolutely loathe seeing mail addressed to any of my businesses. “What paperwork must I handle now?” I ask myself. Given the number of ludicrous regulations that govern corporations, it was not surprising or inconceivable to me that the above document was a bona fide legal notice. It’s designed to look exactly like one. What it is, however, is a scammy attempt to make you purchase a poster, which is required by law to have on your business premises, but for $84. You can find them online for $5. I called my attorney immediately to ask him about the validity of it, but even while I was on the phone with him, I started getting that same phishy feeling I felt years ago.

The Blunders of Exploiting Others

The mathematics don’t usually reward exploiting people, unless you have so much power and money that you don’t have to hide it that well. But in most cases exploitation doesn’t add up, at least not in the long run. I would bet at least 9 out of 10 people figure out the document is a scam, but probably more like 19 out of 20. If the company, instead, simply made a nice flyer that explained what the legal requirements are and offered to sell you one for $5 or even $9.95, far more people would gladly send them the money, for a valuable and convenient service, and in the end, the company would make more money and make people happy instead of angry.