How the Psychology of Fraudsters and Those Who Fall Victim to Them Works

Scammers take advantage not only of other people’s naiveté but also of special techniques that cause  victims to act irrationally.

Internet fraudsters deceive a wide variety of people with different life experiences, education, and characters. It’s just like betting with a proper analysis: you cannot predict the exact person who will be cheated. It’s far from always pensioners or children who are unaware of common deception tactics. But there are certain factors that make a person more susceptible to Internet scammers:

● Dependent personality type.
● Victimhood.
● Empathy and a strong sense of compassion.
● Depression and anxiety.

Dependent personality type is manifested in the tendency to constantly ask other people’s opinions, the habit of relying on others when making decisions, or taking some actions. These people find it difficult to be independent, it’s difficult to express their disagreement with something, especially in a stressful situation.

Victimhood is characterized by the belief that the whole world is bad and evil and that the person himself is a victim of what is happening around him. Such people tend to get into problematic situations more often.

People with high empathy, as well as those who suffer from depression or anxiety (and there are many of them now), find it harder to make rational decisions. They are more vulnerable in a stressful situation.

For example, with depression, a person has slow reactions, reduced concentration, and is passive. Empathic people are deeply penetrated by the problems of others, ready to help at any moment, and they are easy to "lead" to empathy, which gives a convenient hook for manipulation.

If the fraudster manages to build at least minimal communication with the victim during the call, he can quickly understand by his voice what kind of person he is talking about and use it for his own purposes.

Of course, just understanding the type of victim isn’t enough. Scammers know how to take advantage of the situation (and your job is to prevent them from doing so).

How Scammers Operate and Why It’s Effective


Internet fraudsters can work according to different schemes: intimidation, suppression, and playing on the properties of personality, for example, appealing to excitement, ego, or empathy. The tactics depend on both the psychological characteristics of the victim and the personality of the fraudster. The main categories of fraudsters are as follows:

● Aggressors. People who purposely hurt others and get pleasure from it, perverted joy. For them, it’s a way of self-expression and proving to themselves that they are strong and worth something.
● Predators. They have a cold consciousness and no feelings (including fear). For them, people are an obstacle to step over.
● Manipulators. They lie, cheat to achieve their goal, and thus feed their ego.

Regardless of personality type, all scammers drive a person into a stressful situation. They induce fear in the victim, pressure them, manipulate them with a lack of time, uncertainty, and, at the same time, an overabundance of information.

In a stressful situation, noradrenaline is released, the sympathetic-adrenal system is triggered, adrenaline is produced, and the prefrontal cortex is “turned off”; It’s responsible for a sound assessment of the situation around us and rational decisions, controlling our actions and thoughts, planning, and focusing our attention. In fact, it’s the brain’s executive.

When the prefrontal cortex “turns off”; a person begins to act on emotions. Therefore, he commits such actions, which later he himself perceives as strange or stupid. In other words, during stress, the brain loses the ability to think rationally, and a person may experience cognitive distortions and errors in thinking. Against this backdrop, people engage in different patterns of behavior:

● Helpless surrender. When a person is bombarded with an excessive amount of information, false humility, and an inner demand for help are activated. He begins to expect someone else to help him, give him hints, solve his problems, and alleviate his anxiety.
● Submissive surrenderer. Under pressure and excessive fear, a person becomes passive, obedient, so as not to inflame the conflict and not get into it. He is willing to abandon his judgments, ignore his emotions, endure bad attitudes, and submit to any requests or demands.

● Self-aggrandizer. This is when a person is addressed by name, convinced that only he can do something. Requests for help play on his confidence and his sense of self-importance. He begins to overestimate his own abilities and gives himself over to excitement.

How to Protect Yourself From Scams

Since modern scams are mostly phone calls, it’s worth making it a habit to write to people you regularly communicate with first and only then call. Especially those whose numbers you don’t have in your contact list. Beyond that, it’s important to remember the five never’s which honest companies never do:

● Don’t ask you to click on a link that isn’t connected to an official website.
● Don’t take an upfront fee for hiring, matrimonial introductions, or sudden inheritance.
● Don’t ask for your name, password, security codes, or personal information.
● Don’t mail attachments you didn’t request.
● Don’t offer prizes, grants, certificates, or any other funding over the phone.

There are two other important rules. The first is to avoid being presumptuous. It’s often costly. Thinking you can outsmart the scammers is risky.

The second rule is that if you find yourself in a stressful, unsettling situation and can’t keep a cool head, take a break. End the conversation and verify the information that alarmed you: call your relatives, the bank, and so on.

But the most important thing is to develop your critical thinking skills. And understand what your weaknesses are and strengthen them.

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