The Psychology of Scammers


There is a lot of evidence about scammers and how they operate.

There are scammers that operate a number of different scams but many seem to find one that works for them then stick to it.

The many Nigerian 419 scammers are an example of sticking to the same game plan. They tempt people with a very large sum of money – usually in the millions and tell a highly improbably story of why the money is available. But with such a large amount of money as the enticement then for many people that overcomes their disbelief and they pay the advance fee which might be called a processing fee or release fee or Police charge or whatever.  The scammer gets the advance fee and of course the large amount of money does not exist.

Most people know of theses scams, so why do the scammers stick to it instead of changing?

They enjoy the challenge, they stick to what they know, why change your plan when you can make the current one work? There are always more people to scam.

There are financial scams so complex that even few experts can understand how they work and at the other end of the spectrum are the incredibly simple scams such as sending out spam emails saying in a lot more words

“We have a large sum of money in your name and will be happy to send this too you once we verify your identity. Please  provide a photograph of your passport or driving licence, your full name and address and contact details”

Some people will answer this with the information which the scammer can then sell on to other scammers.

Are the scammers motivated just by money?

No, many do chase the money, but  for a lot it’s more about the game – winning, showing superiority over the victims who fall for the scams, the badge of honour of taking money from people and giving nothing in return. For some its excitement – getting away with illegal activities and not getting caught. For some, it’s all they know to do.

Many scam messages are childishly inept – poor grammar, spelling mistakes, odd use of words, poor quality layout etc. For some this may be genuine mistakes .e.g  a poor translation from another language but often it is deliberate. The scammers often don’t want to catch people who will realise it’s a scam – they want the most believing and easily conned hence the mistakes to put off anyone who stops to think about the likelihood of the story being true. In this case, implausibility is the scammer’s friend.

Finally, if you get a cold caller trying to scam you, you won’t be able to talk them out of it and you won’t be able to shame them out if it.  Scammers make a clear decision to con people out of money and that’s what they stick to.

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