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 arrested and incarcerated.

The fear response to this news causes amygdala hijack.

WORTH IT

Once the victim starts parting with money they are susceptible to another psychological process called ‘induction of behavioral commitment’. This makes them more motivated to give more money in the belief they will get it all back.

Scammers ask the victim to make small steps of compliance to build trust and increase motivation through imagining the ‘size of the prize’. The victim feels committed to keep sending money.

Criminals make sure the story of a better life through the relationship, or through lottery winnings, or inheritances, is vivid enough to strengthen the motivation and faulty decision making.

HOW DOES IT FEEL?

Victims are often so shamed at falling victim that they are unwilling to share their story with others, leading them to internalize their shameShame Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self; withdrawal motivations; and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness..

This increases the negative effect of shame, which can then triggerTRIGGERS A trigger is a stimulus that sets off a memory of a trauma or a specific portion of a traumatic experience. depression and PTSD.

Common feedback run along the lines of, “I feel so stupid”, “I can’t believe I fell for this”, and “I’m normally so careful”.

Victims also feel a lack of trust, both in themselves and in the community at large. They do not trust their own ability to discern right from wrong, or good from bad, increasing their feelings of vulnerability and emotional violation.

This is why it is important that victims seek professional advice from counselors like IDCARE in Australia New Zealand or Romance Scams Now, to help them work through their shame and grief.

 

If you are the victim of a romance scam in Australia or New Zealand – we recommend: IDCARE is a not-for-profit support service for Australian and New Zealand victims of cyber crime and identity fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim.. They can be contacted on 1300 432 273.

Or you are welcome to contact us ON FACEBOOK OR EMAIL about joining one of our online support groupsSupport Groups In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers. on Facebook. To reach us by email: info@RomanceScamsNow.com

Reprinted from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-27/psychology-of-scams/8306060 for educational purposes