Online Grooming In All Of Its Forms – 2024

Online Grooming In All Of Its Forms

It is Important for Everyone to Understand this Critical Phase in Almost All Scams

Psychology of Scams – A SCARS Insight

•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

Article Abstract

Online grooming and online manipulation and control are related but distinct concepts. Grooming involves predators establishing trust with victims, often minors, to exploit them sexually, financially, or emotionally. It involves building trust, gradual escalation, isolation, flattery, and offering incentives.

This process is slow and methodical, aiming to lower the victim’s defenses over time. In contrast, online manipulation and control aim to exert power over the victim’s decisions and behaviors for various purposes, such as personal, ideological, or financial gain.

It can target anyone and employs tactics like psychological manipulation, misinformation, dependency creation, and digital surveillance. While grooming typically precedes manipulation and control, both involve deceit and exploitation but differ in their objectives, methods, and durations.

Understanding these differences is crucial for identifying and protecting against these harmful behaviors.

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Online Grooming In All Of Its Forms - 2024

Online Grooming is the Pivotal and Essential Technique that is Required for Almost All Forms of Online Scams – Here is What it is and How it Works!

Understanding the Difference between Online Grooming and other forms of Online Manipulation

Online grooming and online manipulation and control are related concepts but differ in their primary objectives, methods, and contexts.

Online grooming is also typically up front in the abuse cycle. After a person has been lured in, by whatever means, they are groomed.

Typical Online Abuse Cycle:

  1. Lured >>
  2. Groomed >>
  3. Manipulation >>
  4. Control >>
  5. Harvesting >>
  6. Exit

Here’s a detailed comparison to highlight these differences:

Online Grooming

Objective: The primary goal of online grooming is to establish a relationship with the victim to exploit them sexually, financially, or emotionally.

Target Audience: Targets are minors and adults – they can all be victims, particularly in cases of financial exploitation or emotional manipulation.


    1. Building Trust: Predators spend time gaining the victim’s trust by showing interest in their lives, giving compliments, and acting as a confidants. Their goal is to find the victim’s vulnerabilities.
    2. Gradual Escalation: The relationship often starts innocently and gradually becomes more personal and explicit.
    3. Isolation: Predators often try to isolate the victim from friends and family to make them more dependent on the predator.
    4. Flattery and Affection: Using excessive praise and affection to create an emotional bond.
    5. Gifts and Incentives: Offering gifts, money, or other incentives to gain favor and loyalty.

Context: Occurs over time and involves significant emotional manipulation exploiting the victim’s vulnerabilities to lower the victim’s defenses and increase their vulnerability.

Online Manipulation and Control

Objective: The main aim is to exert power and control, and influence over the victim’s decisions, beliefs, or behaviors for various purposes, which can be personal, ideological, or financial.

Target Audience: Can target anyone, regardless of age, but often focuses on individuals who are vulnerable, such as those seeking support or connection online.


    1. Psychological Manipulation: Using tactics like gaslighting, fearmongering, or love bombing to influence the victim’s emotions and decisions. Though, amygdala hijacks and love bombing can also be used during the grooming phase.
    2. Exploitation of Emotions: Leveraging emotions such as fear, guilt, love, or loyalty to manipulate behavior.
    3. Misinformation: Spreading false information (lies) or creating fake scenarios to confuse and control the victim.
    4. Dependency Creation: Making the victim dependent on the manipulator for emotional support, information, or validation.
    5. Digital Surveillance: Using technology to monitor and control the victim’s online activities and communications.

Context: Can occur quickly or over a prolonged period and may involve various tactics to maintain control over the victim’s actions and thoughts.

Key Differences

    1. Intent and Outcome:
      • Grooming: Typically aims at exploiting the victim for multiple purposes or gaining significant control over their personal and emotional life. In the case of child predators, grooming is all that is typically used, where as with relationship scams grooming is only one step in a longer chain.
      • Manipulation and Control: Broader in scope, aiming to influence the victim’s decisions and behaviors for a variety of reasons, including political, financial, or personal gain.
    2. Techniques Used:
      • Grooming: Involves a slower, more calculated process of building trust and emotional dependence.
      • Manipulation and Control: Can involve immediate and aggressive tactics, using fear, misinformation, or psychological pressure. However, can also be very slow and drawn out over time.
    3. Duration:
      • Grooming: Usually takes place over a shorter period, it does require time to build trust and manipulate emotions. This is typically up to a couple of months, but it depends on the victim.
      • Manipulation and Control: Can be either short-term or long-term, depending on the manipulator’s goals and the victim’s resistance.
    4. Types of Victims:
      • Grooming: More targets are minors and adults to become victims.
      • Manipulation and Control: Targets a wider range of individuals, including adults, based on vulnerability.


    • Grooming Example: A predator befriends a young teenager online, slowly building a relationship, and eventually convincing the teen to meet in person or share explicit images (as in sextortion cases.)
    • Manipulation and Control Example: This follows grooming. After grooming, the individual trusts someone and starts influencing their beliefs by sharing persuasive misinformation and creating a sense of community and belonging with the goal of achieving an ultimate objective.

14 Different Types of Online Grooming

Online predators use various grooming techniques to manipulate and exploit their victims. Here are some common types of grooming used by online predators:

1. Building Trust and Rapport

Predators often start by establishing a connection with their target. They may pose as peers or someone with similar interests to build a sense of trust and rapport. This can include:

  • Compliments and Flattery: Offering constant praise to make the victim feel valued and understood.
  • Shared Interests: Pretending to share hobbies, interests, or life experiences.
  • Sympathy and Empathy: Showing understanding and sympathy to create an emotional bond.

2. Desensitization to Sexual Content

Predators gradually introduce sexual content or conversation to desensitize the victim and normalize sexual topics. This process can include:

  • Sharing Inappropriate Content: Sending explicit images or videos.
  • Sexual Conversations: Gradually shifting conversations to sexual topics.
  • Normalizing Sexual Behavior: Making the victim believe that sexual activities or discussions are normal and acceptable.

3. Gaining Personal Information

Predators often seek personal information to exploit or manipulate the victim further. This can include:

  • Asking Personal Questions: Gathering information about the victim’s life, family, and routines.
  • Collecting Sensitive Data: Obtaining details like addresses, phone numbers, and school names.

4. Exploitation of Vulnerabilities

Predators identify and exploit the victim’s vulnerabilities, such as low self-esteem, loneliness, or family issues. This can involve:

  • Emotional Manipulation: Using the victim’s insecurities or problems to manipulate them.
  • Providing Solutions: Offering solutions or comfort to make the victim feel indebted or dependent.

5. Offering Gifts and Incentives

Predators may offer gifts, money, or other incentives to gain the victim’s trust and loyalty. This can include:

  • Sending Gifts: Providing physical gifts, online game currency, or other valuables.
  • Promising Opportunities: Offering promises of fame, career opportunities, or other desirable outcomes.

6. Emotional Manipulation

Predators often manipulate the victim’s emotions to keep them engaged and compliant as they begin more complicated manipulation. This can include:

  • Guilt-Tripping: Making the victim feel guilty for not complying or for considering breaking off the relationship.
  • Love-Bombing: Overwhelming the victim with excessive attention and affection to make them feel special and loved.

7. Cyberstalking

Predators may use cyberstalking to monitor and control the victim’s online activities. This can involve:

  • Monitoring Social Media: Keeping track of the victim’s social media posts and interactions.
  • Tracking Software: Using spyware or tracking software to follow the victim’s online movements.

8. Encouraging Risky Behavior

Predators might encourage the victim to engage in risky or illegal activities, further entangling them and making it harder to seek help. This can include:

  • Sharing Explicit Content: Encouraging the victim to send explicit photos or videos.
  • Meeting in Person: Pressuring the victim to meet in person under false pretenses.

9. Love Bombing

Love bombing involves overwhelming the victim with excessive attention, admiration, and affection to quickly establish an emotional bond.

  • Excessive Praise: Constantly complimenting and flattering the victim to build a sense of dependency.
  • Intense Communication: Bombarding the victim with messages, calls, and attention to keep them engaged and distracted from potential red flags.

10. Mirror Imaging

Mirror imaging involves the predator mimicking the victim’s interests, language, and behavior to create a sense of similarity and connection.

  • Shared Interests: Pretending to share the same hobbies and passions to build rapport.
  • Behavior Mimicry: Adopting the victim’s mannerisms and speech patterns to appear more relatable and trustworthy.

11. Triangulation

Triangulation is a tactic where the predator introduces a third party to create jealousy, competition, or a sense of urgency in the victim.

  • Creating Rivalries: Mentioning other potential victims or romantic interests to make the victim feel insecure and more willing to comply.
  • Playing the Victim: Using the third party to make the victim feel sorry for the predator and more likely to meet their demands.

12. Deceptive Support

Predators may offer false support or solutions to problems the victim is facing, only to manipulate them further.

  • Offering Help: Pretending to be a supportive friend or mentor to gain trust.
  • Conditional Support: Providing help but with strings attached, such as expecting something in return.

13. False Opportunities

Predators may lure victims with promises of opportunities, such as modeling contracts, jobs, or scholarships, which turn out to be fake.

  • Career Opportunities: Offering fake job opportunities to gain personal information or manipulate the victim.
  • Educational Opportunities: Promising scholarships or educational help that come with inappropriate conditions or demands.

14. Exploitation of Loneliness

Predators often target individuals who appear to be lonely or isolated, exploiting their need for companionship.

  • Companionship: Offering a sense of friendship and understanding to those who may feel neglected or misunderstood.
  • Emotional Dependency: Making the victim feel like they are the only one who truly understands and cares for them.


Understanding these grooming techniques can help individuals better recognize and protect themselves and others from online predators.

While both online grooming and online manipulation and control involve deceit and exploitation, they differ primarily in their stage and objectives, methods, and the nature of their interactions with victims.

Education and vigilance are key in combating online grooming and ensuring safer online interactions. Understanding these differences is crucial for identifying and protecting against these harmful behaviors.

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