The Psychological Techniques Scammers Use and Why They Make People Gullible

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The Psychological Techniques Scammers Use and Why They Make People Gullible

Some of the scammers target are elderly and uneducated. / Photo by: via Pexels


The news is filled with stories of individuals who get caught up in scams and frauds. Almost every week, there are incidences of victims of e-mail or phone scams. Although most people who hear about these stories may wonder how one could be so easily deceived by what is obviously a shady deal, they may not be as resistant to fraud as they thought they were.

Most people suppose that the easy targets of these scams are those who are uneducated, the elderly, those who are grieving over the recent death of a loved one and those who are socially isolated. There may be evidence that shows that old people who are beyond 65 years old are often victims of email scams, but that does not mean that everyone else is less likely to fall into the trap of scammers. At one point or another, a person may have experienced a time when they have been gullible enough to believe fraudsters. To prevent this from happening, people need to understand the psychological strategies they use on their targets.

What Does Gullibility Mean?

According to Psychology Today, gullibility is “a person’s susceptibility to getting fooled, tricked, or otherwise manipulated.”

Reasons People Fall for Scams

The Conversation states that there are five psychological reasons why some individuals are more prone to getting fooled by scams than others:

The scammer has done them a favor

Scammers sometimes use the principle of reciprocity to manipulate people into falling for their tricks. This is based on the concept that when someone does them a favor, they feel like returning it. Since this favor makes the person feel indebted, they use this as a chance to make their victim get involved in their schemes.

The scammer makes them believe others are also doing it

A study shows that if people assume it is okay to do a certain activity if others are also doing it. This is more likely to happen when they are forced into some vague circumstance. For instance, when some individual tries to sell them a product on the phone. The person on the other end of the phone may tell them that 80% of people who are similar to them have bought the product or invested in a particular insurance.

The scammer makes them commit gradually

Most individuals perceive themselves as committed and consistent. Often, when someone declares that they are going to do an activity, they usually do as they say. Being unable to do as they can harm their self-worth. Scammers are aware of this and use this tendency to their benefit.

To illustrate, a scammer on the phone may start engaging the target in a conversation by asking them seemingly meaningless questions like “How are you?”. This will trick the listener into thinking that the scammer is glad to converse with them even though they do not personally know each other. Eventually, the questions become more personal such as “What kind of credit card are you using?” Since they have answered one question, this makes them feel that if they did not answer the next question, they would be inconsistent.

The scammers use FOMO to their advantage

Oftentimes, people have FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out. Everyone is usually searching for the next “big thing” or hunting for the next opportunity. When this chance is only available for a short period of time, people are inclined to hurry and act on it. This concept is what the principle of scarcity is based on.  

For instance, scammers may present their target with an offer that is only valid for that moment and may say that if they end the call or once they switch to another website, they may never have the chance to avail that offer ever again. Since people hate missing out on such opportunities, they may be prone to grabbing it.

The scammers appear to be nice

Scammers have another principle they employ in their deception which is the principle of similarity. Its premise is that individuals are inclined to have an affinity for those who have qualities that are similar to them. Due to this idea, scammers attempt to find information about their target so that they can make it seem like they are similar to them.

To cite an example, a scammer may ask their target what their favorite color is or when their birthday is. After the target answers these questions, saying for instance that their birthday is on December 14 or that their favorite color is blue, the scammer may reply that they were also born in the same month or that they also like blue. Unconsciously, the target comes to like them because they think that the scammer is like them in some way. As a result, they may become more willing to do what the scammer asks.


Scammers may ask questions that the target may like them because they are alike in some way. / Photo by: terimakasih0 via Pixabay


If a person is able to detect these psychological techniques scammers utilize, it will help them be able to refuse their bogus offers and keep them from becoming another helpless victim of a scam.



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