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The Psychology of a Scam Part 2

Updated: Jan 21, 2018

October 14, 2017 | Dr James Carlopio





Scams work because of our propensity for magical thinking.  If you do not know how something works (e.g., computers), or if you have never done something before (e.g., make $1M) it will sometimes seem ‘magical’ to us.  Many people believe in and look for the secret, the magic, the trick, the 5-easy-steps and the secret formula.  It is part of our instinctual natures.


Scams work because they activate our instinctual, reptilian and mid-brains (via the 3Ps – procreation, provision and protection) bypassing our forebrain and our executive functions.  Scammer use the “visceral influencers” of persuasion so victims respond emotionally instead of rationally.  Scammer throw time pressure, urgency and stress to the mix (via emergencies for example) and we have an explosive and dangerous psychological mix ready to be exploited.


Scams work because people get unnerved, worried and scared and, therefore, they do not think rationally. Victims of scams often feel they must respond quickly to deal with what appears to be an emergency (pressure), such as a grandchild/friend/love-interest (procreation) in serious trouble who needs them to send money to save them from a terrible fate (provision and protection).


In a high-performance cyber secure culture, people are aware of this.  This is one of our core differentiators at CCS.  Everyone else dealing with cyber security is reactive while we at CCS create a proactive culture that actually looks to find its vulnerabilities before they are ever exploited.  


We constantly ask questions such as:  What information and data do we have that can be monitised? Is this offer (email) for real?  What are the potential consequences of doing X?


If you want to learn more, contact Dr. James Carlopio from Cultural Cyber Security on 0488 028 054.
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