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Cyber criminals resort to mind games

Scammers using ever more sophisticated tactics


A grey haired man looking sat in front of a PC

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Cyber fraudsters are using psychological mind games to trick PC users into handing over personal information and money, according to a new report.

Their underhand tactics include assuming trustworthy identities, engaging in friendly banter and targeting human emotions such as fear, insecurity and greed.

Their aim is to manipulate PC users into opening attachments, clicking on a link or entering personal details so they can pickpocket information and online bank accounts.  

The online scammers also exploit people’s curiosity. For example, when an online ad promised to infect the computers of all those that clicked on it, 400 people still did exactly that.

Scam emails

Computer security firm McAfee carried out the investigation in association with leading forensic psychologist, Professor Clive Hollin.

Their report highlights how cybercriminals work hard to convince us that their scam email is legitimate.

They do this by using a combination of psychological tricks like making out the email is from a friend or a trusted authority such as a credit card company and using headlines such as ‘Click here for a reward’ or ‘Click here to avoid something you don’t want to happen’.

Misleading messages

Professor Hollin said: ‘Given the right conditions in terms of the persuasiveness of the communication and the critical combination of situational and personal factors, most people may be vulnerable to misleading information.

‘This point is true both for experienced and inexperienced computer users: while naivety may be a partial explanation, even sophisticated users can be deceived and become suggestible to misleading messages.’

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