(Last Updated On: March 24, 2022)

Scam Grooming: Using Persuasion To Establish Rapport

The Psychology of Scams

A SCARS Insight

Scammers Are Very Clever And Precise In Their Use Of Personal Language & Persuasion

Using The Power Of Persuasion To Groom Scam Victims

It seems strange to think of scammers using precise language when their grammar is so bad, but grammar aside, their use of pronouns and endearments, and other persuasive techniques are designed to set up victims for the scam

Persuasion techniques in telemarketing & sales focus on one key goal — convincing a prospect customer to adopt a new attitude and change their mind toward an idea and buy something. In scamming it is exactly the same thing; to change the attitude of a prospect victim and lead them into sharing more and more information about themselves! When victims share information about themselves they will naturally reduce their defensiveness and skepticism. This gives the scammer the way in the door!

And this isn’t something that involves slick, underhanded manipulation. The language does not even have to be good. It is just about following proven telemarketing persuasion techniques that work on almost everyone. It’s just tapping into some basic psychological principles that have been scientifically proven to get results.

Here are some telemarketing persuasion techniques that scammers employ to build instant rapport with prospect scam victims and set the stage for massive conversions. These then become one of the basis that scammers use to Groom Victims and set them up for the “Hook.”


Scamming is not always about getting money from a victim! In some cases, it is persuading a victim to be a Mule for the scammer or perform other tasks the scammer needs to be done! However, the same techniques apply regardless of the ultimate goal of the scammer.

Persuasion Techniques 101:
Make It All About The Victim

One of the main areas where sales reps go wrong is making the focus on their company rather than the customer. The same is true with the victims – start by making the conversations about the victims – limit the information about the scammer’s story script (at least until later.) Giving just enough information to hold the victim’s interest, but keep them talking about themself!

“Good groomers talk about the target: their problems, their values, and their plans and desires.”

This is the type of mindset development that scammers use with their interactions with prospective victims.

Information-Gap Theory

Through in-depth research, American educator and economist, George Lowenstein, discovered that piquing a person’s curiosity is a potent way to grab their attention and motivate them to want to learn more.

He summarized this concept as “information-gap theory,” and it’s one of the best persuasion techniques salespeople and scammers can use to create a dialogue.

It simply boils down to raising a target’s curiosity, which is something that can be done in a few different ways:

  • Asking a provocative question (What’s getting in the way of you doing something or from being happy?)
  • Offering a provocative tidbit of information (“I am fighting in a war zone as a doctor saving babies for the United Nations”)
  • Providing just some, but not all of the information about the scammer (“I can’t really talk about a lot of it, we don’t really know each other yet.”)
  • Offer Social Proof (Just enough proof to confirm a small amount of the story, but let the victim fill in the rest in their own mind.)

This is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion, and is hands down one of the best ways to get people over “the persuasion hump.” And it’s dead accurate.

Scammers typically have several types of social proof on standby, such as documents, supporting actors (co-scammers), and more. But they use it very sparingly – too much proof is a dead give-away that it is a scam. The trick is always to let the victim to make assumptions and fill in the gaps!


Another of Cialdini’s principles is the principle of liking. Scammers need to be likable or they fail immediately.

If a scammer can get a victim to legitimately like them on a personal level that transcends them being strangers, the odds of capturing or hooking the victim skyrocket.

According to a study involving MBA students, one of the easiest ways to become more likable is simply exchanging personal information to establish some initial rapport.

More specifically, it discovered that 90% of students that did this experienced successful outcomes that were worth 18% more than not exchanging personal information.

The same is true for scammers. Much of what scammers rely on are telemarketing techniques adapted for their use in fraud. This is partly based upon “Stranger Trust” but goes far beyond it.

Create Goodwill Through Reciprocity

There’s also reciprocity, which takes an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” approach. We have talked about this previously here.

“Simply put, people feel obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.”

Look at our article on reciprocity to learn more about this important technique used both in grooming and in maintaining control over the victim throughout the scam.

Turn Objections Into Success

Objections are inevitable and can run the gamut. The best scammers understand this and do not let it put them off their game.

When you break it all down, they usually involve one of the following: scammers learning to disarm objections and actually turn them into strengths – something that can be done by first agreeing with an objection and then explaining how the scammer overcomes the associated pain points or problem – in other words they have a solution (usually involving money!) They explain why the victim is right, but it just doesn’t work that way, it has to be done the way the scammer says.

The Ransberger Pivot

The Ransberger Pivot is another persuasion technique that is specifically designed to overcome objections. It works by changing the framework from being argumentative about an issue to establishing that a scammer is on the same side as the victim, where they’re operating as friends (or lovers), regardless of the objection.

This comes up most often in the early and mid-stages of a scam when the scammers need the victim to perform some action and the victim resists.

If the victim expresses concern about something, thinking that whatever it is going to be difficult, a scammer will acknowledge that and discuss how they can help make it as easy as possible. Just the act of talking it through helps to calm the victim and get them over the objection, even if it doesn’t really make any real sense.

This is common with victims that look back on the objections that they raised at various stages, and somehow the scammer was able to persuade them and they did whatever it was.

Put the Victim in Control

At the end of the day, deciding whether to go forward or not is in the hands of the victim (at least in the beginning,) and the scammers know this! It’s their call. At least the scammer wants the victim to think that!

Using hyper-aggressive techniques where a scammer acts like they know what’s best for the victim and tries to tell them what to do usually ends up backfiring. So, it’s important that scammers reassure victims that they’re in the driver’s seat and don’t try to force anything on them. They let the victim persuade themselves into taking the action or not.

This is known as the “But You Are Free Technique,” and a study involving over 22,000 people found that it doubles the chances of a person saying “yes.”

It works in marketing, sales, and fraud equally well!

The “Foot-In-The-Door” Technique

Research has found that first asking a small request, and then following it with a larger request significantly increases the odds of persuading someone. Scammers have this down to a science.

Getting a victim to say “yes” with a small request makes it more likely that they’ll agree to a larger request later, such as sending money. But the request can be almost anything. The key is to keep the victim saying yes!

“You,” “Yours,” And “Your”

Experts have found that using second-person pronouns like these, rather than self-centric pronouns like “I,” “Me,” and “Mine” have a positive impact on persuasion. Scammers keep the conversations mostly about the victim and not about themselves. This helps on many levels, not the least is that they are not great at remembering everything they have told to victims – so reducing the talk about themselves helps them avoid tripping themselves up.

Use the Person’s Name – Sort Of!

Use the person’s name? They mostly don’t.

A psychological study by Howard, Gengler, and Jain found, “After an initial introduction, it seems to be a common experience for people to ‘feel good’ when someone remembers their name at a later point in time.” This is considered one of the top complimentary persuasion techniques and can be instrumental in salespeople building quick rapport with a customer.

However, scammers generally do not do this! The reason is fairly simple, they can’t remember it!

You have all seen movies or known someone who could not keep names straight, usually with humorous or embarrassing outcomes. Scammers have to talk with hundreds of victims and keeping names straight is impossible. The risks to ending a scam are very high if they make a mistake.

What do they do? They use “endearments!” Studies show that endearments can be just as powerful as using a person’s name, and in many cases more so. This is because of the fact that in romance scams a relationship is being formed and endearments are a natural way to recognize the other person with a special name or phrase. Thus endearments take the place of the victim’s name and allow the scammer to use a name or phrase they can remember for all or most of their victims.

Experience has shown that endearments work perfectly as a substitute for the victim’s name in creating the positive feelings that scammers need to move the victim forward.

Use the Word “Because”

A study by Harvard found, “Adding ‘because’ to a statement increased agreement by 34%.” There are similar words and phrases that also increase results for the scammer. If you think back through your conversations you will spot them. Please share them with us in a comment below?

Too Many Choices

Have you noticed that scammers almost always have only one choice in dealing with any situation? They want their victims to accept whatever they say and not have choices that have to be thought about. Whether it is their urgent situations, or how the victim needs to perform, it usually comes down to one choice – one option – and it just has to be that way – because!

In a TED Talk, psychologist Barry Schwartz explained “the paradox of choice,” where people become overwhelmed with too many choices, which creates a paralyzing effect.

Two many choices in any situation can also get the victim thinking analytically too! Analytical thinking can lead to examining what has been said too closely which can lead a victim to escape from the scam!


Mirroring, also known as mimicry, is where a person copies the behaviors and non-verbal cues of the person they’re interacting with. And it’s proven to be one of the more effective persuasion techniques.

“Researchers studied mimicry, and found that those who had been mimicked were much more likely to act favorably toward the person who had copied them.”

It makes people feel more comfortable and understood. Except, that it is impossible to use visual mimicry online with out real video – which is impossible for most scammers. So what do they do?

Scammers are looking for things like the following that they can exploit: voice tone, the speed of speech, phrasing & vocabulary, speech cadence, and more. Did you notice that the longer that you chatted with the scammer, the more they integrated your style of speech?

Mirroring reduces the victim’s ability to recognize the scammer as “an other” or stranger, enhancing the chanes of success for the scammer throughout the scam.

Reflective Listening

Similar to mirroring is a technique called Reflective Listening, where a scammer paraphrases and repeats what a vicim just said.

A study found that using this technique helps encourage the other party to disclose more emotion and lays the groundwork for tighter relationships.

Scammers will not do this too often, usually, because while they are chatting (even on the phone) with you they are chatting with a dozen other prospects, but it does happen and it is effective.

Show They’re Listening

Another part of getting a victim in sync with a scammer is for the scammer to show they’re listening – something that can be done by peppering in simple expressions like these throughout a conversation:

  • Right
  • Mmm hmm
  • Gotcha
  • Really?
  • It sounds like…
  • Yes
  • I understand
  • and more …

These will help keep the victim talking and sharing critical information that the scammer can use to further the grooming process and later with the manipulation stage of the scam.

The Power of Three

Susannah Jacobs of The New York Times talks about one of the more fascinating persuasion techniques is called “the power of three.” According to studies, “three claims will persuade, but four (or more) will trigger skepticism, and reverse an initially positive impression.”

Scammers understand that to succeed they need to always keep it simple. This includes the number of entities in a scam.

Consider that in real life you have dozens of issues you are juggling on a daily basis. But in the scam, it all gets reduced down to a small number: you, the scammer, and a situation. Usually, just three!

They have learned – since so many scammers were actually trained telemarketers – to stick with three claims or entities and stop there.

Use Humor

Another way to create a deeper connection and humanize the conversation with some well-placed humor. After all, if a scammer can make a victim legitimately laugh, they’re ahead of the game. But humor is also difficult when the scammer comes from a different culture. You can spot the culture gaps in the ways scammers mostly use child-like humor and rarely (if ever) political or more sophisticated adult humor. They will explain this away (in many cases) as their religious upbringing.

Make The Victim Feel Special

Always Always Always! Nobody wants to be treated like they’re “just another mark.”

This is a skill set that scammers are usually good at – making the victim feel special, though in reality, victims need and desire this, so any attention from the scammer can work.

Scammers Almost Never Ask, “Is This a Good Time to Talk?”

Scammers want the victim’s attention when they want it.

That is not to say that they do not respond when the victim contacts them, but scammers have an agenda in their communications. They need to respond immediately to any reduction in control, but they also want to disrupt the victim’s sleep cycles too. Their communication patterns are also designed to isolate the victims.

Disrupting sleep is a good way to keep victims off balance and more susceptible to control.

Encourage Participation

If a scammer can get a victim in on the action, this dramatically boosts engagement and makes it easier to get a victim’s long-term commitment to the scammer.

Participation can be getting the victim to engage in small tasks (initially) to both assess their acceptance of the scammer’s story, but also to get the victim invested. This can include sending gifts, performing favors, and other tasks.

This can also include larger tasks that will result in failure and disappointment, such as wait at an airport for the scammer to arrive. If the victim made the effort to show up then they are heavily invested and committed. Even if the result was not expected, these disappointments can be used to keep a victim participating because of their desire to see the outcome they want.


There is always urgency! This is one more of Robert Cialdini’s main persuasion principles. By using urgency, scammers can help motivate victims to take instant action.

It goes without saying that urgency is a cornerstone persuasion technique that scammers always employ. However, where it is employed makes a huge difference. The better scammers will use small doses of urgency from the beginning to evaluate victims and the grooming process, leading up to the main event and the big money!

Always Report All Scams – Anywhere In The World To:

Go to reporting.AgainstScams.org to learn how

U.S. FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?orgcode=SCARS and SCARS at www.Anyscams.com
Visit reporting.AgainstScams.org to learn more!