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, 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 often ask for a larger sum of money the next time. However, each time more money is paid, 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 payment of this last amount of money paid in advance by the victim. Of course the payment requests never end because it is just 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 an agreement, then the victim is more likely to invest again and again in order to try and avoid losing whatever they have already invested so far.

Scam victims also have hope that the transaction will conclude very soon and that whatever has been promised to them by the scammer will soon be achieved by the victim. Thus, the victim expects to be compensated for whatever money has been sacrificed by the victim when the transaction concludes. And in all cases, no matter how much the scammer is asking the victim pay, it will appear that the victim will be compensated later with a greater amount than what is to be paid in advance to the scammer. So there is always a perceived gain to be made by the victim later, which always makes the offer appear to be worth pursuing, no matter how much the victim is asked to pay in advance to the scammer to complete the transaction.

Using this psychology, scammers may ask for as little as $50-$100 via a gift card payment as the first payment. This is a strategy used in some scams in order to simply get a victim "invested" into the scam. Then the scammer will start to increase the amount of money requested after the first amount has been paid by the victim. This is done to get more and more money from of the victim and gets the victim more deeply invested each time so that the victim may continue to send more money to the scammer. The more that a victim is invested into the 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 they are promising truly do exist and are safely sitting in a bank account awaiting payout to the victim.

In all cases, any bank websites provided by the scammer, are always fraudulent/fake websites owned and controlled by the scammer and the money that they are showing in the online bank account is 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, 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 in as an attempt by the scammer to increase the credibility of the scam and to portray that their offer is one of great importance.

Additional parties brought into a scam by a scammer may be presented as lawyers (barristers), bankers, courier and security companies, or even a religious figure such as a pastor or reverend father. In almost all cases though the victim is dealing with only one person who is the same scammer acting behind all of the different fake personas and various email addresses being implemented int he scam. The scammer may also introduce fake websites (sometimes more than one) 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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