Monica Whitty1, Raluca Briazu2, Matthew Edwards3, Awais Rashid3, Claudia Peesman3, & Yu Zhao1
1The School of Culture and Communication, The University of Melbourne, Australia, 2 School of Psychology, University of Reading, UK, 3Department of Computer Science, University of Bristol, UK
Advance-fee scams are a type of fraud, where criminals trick individuals into paying upfront fees for goods, investments, and services that never materialise (Whitty & Joinson, 2009). According to some researchers, about a third of scam victims are re-scammed (Whitty, 2019). Given the high prevalence of re-victimisation, it is important to understand scammers’ techniques and the reasons why victims are repeatedly pulled into these scams. In this paper, we provide an in-depth analysis of the email exchanges between multiple scammers and a victim, who had been repeatedly victimized over many years. The scams under investigation were more akin to the traditional ‘Nigerian email scam’ – where the victim is ostensibly contacted by a chronically ill person or a business person residing in Nigeria who promises rich rewards (millions of pounds) if the victim provides funds (£1000s) to help release these funds or make an investment. We analysed email exchanges between the victim and 19 other scammers, which in total included 481 messages. Applying grounded theory approach, we considered previous work on the techniques of scammers, and we were open to new findings. One of the more frequent tactics involved establishing credentials. In the email exchanges, we were able to see how the criminal works on the victim to trick them into believing their authenticity eventually. We note that the victim is not passive in these exchanges and discuss the trigger points where the victim moves to believe in the genuineness of the narrative and is tricked into sending money.
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