Trust scammers and scoundrels alone

September 30, 2023

“Former First Deputy Minister of Defence of Russia Nikolai Mikhailov fell victim to telephone scammers; he transferred 1.9 million roubles to them.”

“The director of the administrative department of the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Shtop, gave almost four million roubles to telephone scammers.”

“Former first deputy chief of staff of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Yuri Bezverkhov lost 44.3 million roubles in four months due to the release of confidential information to scammers.”

“Former member of the Perm City Duma Rustam Khisaev said that he became a victim of fraud and lost one million dollars.”

“Valentina Astapenko, head of the legal department of the prefecture of the South-Eastern Administrative District of Moscow, was scammed out of 9 million roubles. The scammers, posing as employees of the prefecture and FSB officers, convinced her to get loans, buy a phone and deposit everything into “safe accounts.” Valentina’s naivety and respect for reputable organizations played against her.”

Such reports regularly appear in the Russian media and Telegram channels, drawing attention primarily to the fact that fraudsters fall prey not to ordinary pensioners but to people with a high social status, who are sufficiently familiar with various "schemes" and allegedly can deceive anyone and not be deceived by others.

Of course, fraud and victims of fraud exist all over the world, but in Russia the scale of "trusted fraud" has become a real epidemic. At the same time, during their "tricks", Russian fraudsters most often use the government authority, especially of law-enforcement agencies, introducing themselves to the victims as their representatives. And this is not surprising, because the "authority of the government" is what is cultivated in Russia.

What is the cause of such a "pathological credulity" of Russians, why are they so often unable to distinguish those who should not be trusted at all? Obviously, because this skill, and most importantly, the criteria used to distinguish between those who can and cannot be trusted are formed in the process of socialization of an individual, and to a large extent under the influence of mass media.

If TV constantly shows faces that a normal person should not trust, but at the same time tells that these people (like Putin or Medvedev) or people with such views and behaviour deserve public trust, then consumers of such information subconsciously get confused in the criteria by which a bad guy can be distinguished from a good one. That is, they supposedly know from their own life experiences that such a person looks like a scoundrel, but TV says that this is not the case at all.

This is reflected in the criteria for evaluating people in everyday communication, and scoundrels begin to inspire confidence. Moreover, they begin to act as "defenders of morality", and it turns out to be the most pathetic.

The formation of ideas about "the good and the bad" applies not only to trust, but also to such a delicate area as sexual attractiveness. In the mid-1930s, a psychosis swept over Germany — every time Hitler appeared in public, women chanted "I want a child from the Führer!".

In Russia, it is not so widespread, but songs like "We all want to marry Putin!" widely circulated. Three years ago, Yulia Shilova, a resident of Ivanovo, shouted to him from the crowd during Putin's visit to this city: "Marry me!" Although her act, judging by the reaction on social networks, caused a mixed response among ordinary Russians, it was enough for Yulia Shilova to be invited to several central Russian TV channels at once: "I want to give birth to his heir!" Shilova solemnly declared on live air. As you can see, history tends to repeat itself.

Lev Tolstoy also wrote about the shift in moral criteria due to the idealization by Russian propagandists of persons who were by no means models of morality. This is what he wrote about the "iconic personality" of Russian history, Tsar Peter the Great:

“Raging beast Peter forces people to kill and torture other people in hundreds, thousands, he himself enjoys executing them, chops off heads with his drunken, inept hand, without immediately snatching off the neck, buries his mistresses in the ground, furnishes the entire capital city with gallows with corpses, goes around drinking among the boyars and merchants in the robe of the patriarch and archdeacon with a box of bottles in the form of the Gospel, with crosses made of tubes in the form of reproductive organs, forcing people to kill millions of people by work and war, forcing people to execute, burn, twist the joints of other people (all faithful), branded like herds of cattle, kills his son and enthrones the whore of his concubine and his own. And they erect monuments to him and call him the benefactor of Russia and a great man; and all his deeds — everything that people did according to his will is justified, considered legal, necessary, and does not fall on the conscience of the people who did them.” “What’s terrible to think about? — says the writer. “This is what has destroyed the sense of sanctity in people.”

The state of moral disorientation into which society falls leads to "black perceived as white", and if 78% of Russian citizens trust Putin (judging by the results of the WCIOM poll), then why should they not trust other criminals and fraudsters, this time — not political?


Mykhailo Mischenko

Deputy Director, Sociological Service

Born in 1962 in Kyiv

Education: Taras Shevchenko Kyiv State University, Faculty of Philosophy (1984). Ph. D in Philosophy


1984 – 1990 — Sociology Department at the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

1990 – 1998 — Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

1998 – 2003 — Ukrainian Institute of Social Research

February – September 2003 — Kyiv International Institute of Sociology

Since October 2003 — Deputy Director, Razumkov Centre Sociological Service

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