The Psychology Behind Advance-Fee Fraud Email Scams

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The Psychology Behind Advance-Fee Fraud Email Scams

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Advance-Fee Fraud is best described as an offer of a large amount of free money, merchandise, services, employment, or even romance, but where the victim is asked to pay a fee in advance to obtain whatever is being promised to them by the scammer. The main scam strategy of all advance-fee fraud scams is to try to persuade the victim to send money to the scammer first, and then get the victim to continue to send more money to the scammer, as many times as possible, until the victim eventually runs out of money and/or goes into debt as a result of financial losses from the scam.

Initially, advance-fee fraud scammers will claim that only a certain amount of money is required as an up-front fee which must be paid to facilitate completion of the fictitious transaction that the scammer is offering. However, as soon as the victim sends the scammer any money then the scammer will claim that some unforeseen circumstances have arisen and more money is now required to complete the transaction.

The requests for additional payments will go on repeatedly and, each time money is paid to the scammer, the scammer will typically ask for a larger sum of money the next time. However, each time more money is paid by the victim, the scammer will promise the victim that this will be the final request for money and that the only thing standing in the way of concluding the transaction is the payment of this last sum of money to be paid in advance by the victim. Of course the payment requests never end because it is a scam and there is no real money that will ever be sent back to the victim by the scammer.

The psychology that scammers apply is, if a victim sends money even once to a scammer, then it is very likely that the victim can be convinced to send money to the scammer again. The reason being, once a victim invests financially and emotionally into a financial arrangement, then the victim is more likely to send more money to the scammer again and again in order for the victim to try and avoid losing whatever money the victim has already invested into the scam so far.

Scam victims also have hope that the transaction will conclude very soon, which is often why they continue sending more money. Plus, victims believe that whatever has been promised to them by the scammer, will soon be obtained by the victim. Thus, the victim expects to be fairly compensated for whatever money has already been paid in advance by the victim, once the transaction concludes. But in all scam instances, no matter how much the scammer is asking the victim pay, it will always appear that the victim will be fully compensated later on with a greater amount of money than what is being paid in advance by the victim to the scammer. So there is always a perceived future gain to be made by the victim, which always makes the offer appear worth pursuing, no matter how much money the victim is asked to pay in advance in order to complete the transaction.

Using this psychology, scammers may ask for as little as $50-$100 via a gift card as the first payment. This is a strategy used in some scams in order to get a victim "financially invested" into the scam. Then the scammer will start to increase the amount of money requested once the first amount has been paid by the victim. This strategy is used to get more and more money from of the victim and gets the victim more deeply invested into the scam each time the victim pays more money to the scammer. The more that a victim is financially invested into a scam then the more the victim also stands to lose, thus it becomes less likely that the victim will simply walk away from the transaction as the scam progresses.

During the course of the scam, the scammer may provide a so-called online banking website (with login details) in an attempt to prove that the funds the scammer is promising is money that truly exists and is safely sitting in a bank account awaiting payout to the victim. In all cases though, any bank websites provided by the scammer are always fraudulent/fake websites that are controlled by the scammer and the money that they are showing to the victim in the online bank account are fake funds in a non-existent bank account.

Another technique often used by scammers is to change identities and personas multiple times throughout the scam. As the victim falls deeper into the scam then the scammer will often introduce the scam victim to other associates and partners that the scammer claims will be assisting with the transaction. This technique is added as an attempt by the scammer to increase the credibility of the scam and to portray to the victim that their offer is one of great importance and legitimacy.

Additional parties brought into a scam by a scammer may be presented as lawyers (barristers), bankers, couriers and security companies. Or sometimes religious figure such as a fake pastor or reverend father is used too. In almost all cases though the victim is dealing with only one person who is the sole scammer behind all of the fake personas and various fraudulent email addresses being implemented by the scammer. The scammer may also introduce other fake websites (such as shipping companies, etc) and provide a number of fake and fraudulent documents in order to try to further convince the victim that the fake transaction is real.

Another psychological technique often used by email scammers is to send the victim a new scam email called a “Past Effort” scam within 1-2 months after contact between the scammer and the victim has ended. Please click here to read more about how Past Effort scams work.

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