Why do people comply with fraud pitches?

When it comes to trying to understand why people comply with fraud pitches, researchers have zeroed in on studying the persuasion tactics cons use to defraud. In 2004, AARP and FINRA secured and transcribed over 300 undercover audiotapes of fraud pitches made by law enforcement of real con men pitching undercover investigators. They were then coded to determine what types of persuasion tactics are used for various fraud crimes. Researchers were able to identify the most commonly-used persuasion tactics for a variety of different scams (FINRA/WISE, 2006; Pak & Shadel, 2007; Pratkanis & Shadel, 2005).

A recent study done in the UK analyzed the psychological tactics used in various scams, and in particular raised important questions about the role of emotion in defrauding consumers (Office of Fair Trading, 2009). Additionally, some studies have shown that phishing scams often use social networks and context-setting strategies to gain victim’s trust and defraud them (Jagatic et al., 2005).

Given the importance of a psychological understanding of fraud (both from the perspective of the victims and the perpetrators), much of the body of fraud-related research can be found within the wide field of psychology.  This includes consumer psychology and marketing, neuropsychology, communications psychology and psycholinguistics, educational psychology, social psychology, etc.