Updated: Jun 19, 2019
There are two primary reasons why scams work: Fear of not having enough money, and fear of being alone. Scammers prey on both.
The first one is loneliness. People will pay everything they own for companionship. Let’s face it. When people get older, they don’t stay socially connected because it’s difficult. Their friends are dying. Maybe even their spouse is deceased. They don’t or can’t get out much. Even their family doesn’t want to hang around them because they aren’t interested in the same things. The family is busy and has other priorities.
Scammers realize this and befriend the individual online. They talk to them every day, usually multiple times per day. The scammers give the individual a reason to get up in the morning.
“I know now that this wasn’t real and that I was being scammed, but those were the best 6 months of my life.”
Scammers develop a strong rapport with their victims typically over a 3-4-month time frame. They act interested in what the person has to say and even find commonality with the individual, whether real or perceived. They tell them constantly that they love and care about them. The whole reason the scammer waits so long before asking for money is because the scammer is finding out what is important to their victim, and then they exploit them by using those very things against them.
After one individual was finally convinced she wasn’t talking to who she thought she was, she made the comment, “I know now that this wasn’t real and that I was being scammed, but those were the best 6 months of my life.” Never mind that this woman had just lost $300,000 of her life savings to this scammer.
The other main reason scams work is because they prey on the fear the victim has of not having enough money to outlive their life. This fear especially allows the lottery/sweepstakes scams to work. “I’ve never won anything in my life, and this is going to make things a lot easier,” is a common remark made by victims. Even wealthier individuals can fall victim to this scam because they want to be remembered as philanthropic and be able to leave money for their family, and donate to charities.
Now when you couple the fear of being lonely with the fear of not having enough money to outlive your life, the scammer is the solution that satisfies both of those fears. He says he loves them and almost always says he has financial resources of his own to easily provide for them. It becomes the perfect storm. When a victim views the scammer as his/her last chance at romance and financial security, it’s a very difficult bond to crack.