Last Updated on by SCARS Editorial Team

Psychology of ScamsPsychology Of Scams Psychology Of Scams is the study of the psychological or emotional effects of scams or financial fraud on victims of these crimes. It helps victims to better understand the impact of scams on them personally or on others. To find the SCARS articles on the Psychology of Scams, use the search option to enter the term and find them.

The emotional traps to watch out for

Criminals are using age-old techniques to manipulate the way we think and act, leaving us vulnerable to scamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost.. IDCARE counsellor Suli Malet-Warden explains the psychological games that scammers play to entrap their victims.

ROMANCE SCAMS

During the groomingGrooming Grooming is a form of setting up a victim for a scam or other crime by befriending and establishing an emotional connection with the victim, and sometimes the family, to lower the victim's inhibitions with the objective of the scam or criminal activity.  Grooming includes the development of a trust relationship between the criminal and the victim, getting the victims to the point where they can be more completely manipulated.   stage, the criminalCriminal A criminal is any person who through a decision or act engages in a crime. This can be complicated, as many people break laws unknowingly, however, in our context, it is a person who makes a decision to engage in unlawful acts or to place themselves with others who do this. A criminal always has the ability to decide not to break the law, or if they initially engage in crime to stop doing it, but instead continues. works on eliciting a high level of trust to manipulate the victim into what the criminal terms the ‘ether state’.

This state is characterised by high oxytocin levels which are increased through ‘love bombing’; validating the victim, telling him or her how wonderful they are, sending love notes and love poems through the day and relentlessly, emotionally bombarding them with ‘love vibes’.

When the criminal has manipulated the victim into this state, they can start asking for money, often citing plausible (but at the same time, unusual) reasons, such as accidents, lost wallets or banking issues.

The victim is encouraged to keep messaging through the night, leading to sleep deprivation, which also has a detrimental effect on cognitive function.

The criminal will paint a vivid and highly potent picture of a future life together. Because the victim will want to believe everything the criminal says, they will employ selective thinking.

The victim will filter out any observations that run contrary to their belief in their love interest’s story. This is why it is so difficult for well-meaning friends or family members to convince the victim they are falling for a scammerScammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer..

SEX & LIES

Visceral cues also have a powerful effect on behaviour and victims tend to underestimate the potential influence on their own behaviors.

Sexual desire is a common visceral factor for romance scamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. victims who are often lured into conversations of a sexual nature and dreams of an intimate future relationship.

The stronger the ‘pull’ for sexual connection, the less a victim is aware of anomalies in the criminal’s story.

THE ATOAccount Takeover Account Takeover (ATO) are the unauthorized access of a user’s account in order to steal identity credentials, execute a fraudulent transaction or engage in varying types of abuse. SCAM

This scam relies on the scammer’s ability to send the victim into ‘amygdala hijackAmygdala Hijack Amygdala Hijack An amygdala hijack refers to a personal, emotional response that is immediate, overwhelming, and out of measure (proportion) with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat or hormonal response. This can include: Anger, Sadness, Love, Desire, etc.’.

This is an evolutionary response to any threat to our safety and security. We are pre-wired for this response, which goes back to the days where we needed to avoid threats that would kill us.

Amygdala hijack shuts down the pre-frontal cortex, which is our rational, logical ‘executive function’ part of our brain. This causes us to act and not think.

There is a strong influence on the importance of taking immediate action. For example, during the Australian Tax Office scam, an individual is convinced by the criminal that if they do not make immediate payment, they will be arre