Psychological influences in e-mail fraud

Chang, Joshua J.S., and Chong, Mark David (2010) Psychological influences in e-mail fraud. Journal of Financial Crime, 17 (3). pp. 337-350.

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Internet fraud is an epidemic that costs US$7.1 billion as of 2007. The advent of the Internet and proliferation of its use makes it an attractive medium for communicating the fraud, particularly through the use of email. This study aims to explain how victims of online fraud can be influenced by judgmental heuristics and cognition when they make nonnormative or sub-optimal decisions.


This study will analyse the content of 14 recent fraudulent emails to explain how victims of online fraud can be influenced from a psychological perspective, using theories of bounded rationality, judgmental heuristics and cognition.


This study suggests that email fraudsters, whether intentionally or not, employ specific methods that correspond closely to how the human mind works within a context of bounded rationality. These methods have a propensity to exploit psychological blind spots in victims caused by selective perception and post-decisional dissonance, as well as sub-optimal or nonnormative responses in automatic behaviour due to the common use of heuristics (for example, representativeness, availability and affect) when making decisions in complex task environments.

Implications and Value:

Considering the current and widespread problem of online fraud, this article is expected to inform and prepare Internet users against such deception by offering a better understanding of how fraudsters can psychologically influence the way victims and potential victims make their decisions.

Item ID: 16388
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1359-0790
Keywords: Internet, crime, fraud, email, psychology, heuristics
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2011 02:36
FoR Codes: 18 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 1801 Law > 180110 Criminal Law and Procedure @ 50%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1602 Criminology > 160299 Criminology not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9404 Justice and the Law > 940403 Criminal Justice @ 100%
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