Criminals use six basic principles to influence and steal. In the first post we discussed:

  • Reciprocation: Do something nice for a person and they will feel obligated to return the favor.
  • Social Proof: This is the “It’s okay if everyone else does it” approach.
  • Commitment and Consistency: Get someone to verbally or in writing commit to something, and this will increase the chances they’ll follow through.

Robert Cialdini is a psychologist who studied influence for nearly 30 years, condensing his findings into six principles. In this post we will discuss 3 more principles of influences that tie it all together and make scammers experts at their craft.


  • If someone likes you they will more likely comply with you. Get more bees with honey as they say. We do business with those we know, like, and trust. When you see others rate a product high, you are more likely to buy it.
  • The liking could even result from noticing that you have a similar hairstyle or body mannerisms. This is why salespeople are taught to mimic the vocal patterns of their prospects.
  • A similar name, knowing the same people, finding common ground, a similar physical appearance, is all comforting.
  • Scammers do everything they can to appear as a likable trusted source. The scam email looks exactly like your bank because you must like your bank if you trust them with your money, so you click the link. This new person friends you on social and you see they are connected to 25 of your others friends and colleagues. They must be OK right? No.


  • Coming off with some authority increases one’s ability to influence people. This is why salespeople are taught to speak with downward inflections.
  • To seem more authoritative, wear dark clothing. Police officers and security guards dress in black or dark blue. So do ministers, judges and karate instructors. Attorneys in court, especially during closing arguments, usually wear dark. Imagine a cop in pink. Or SWAT in lavender.
  • But authority can also be white (doctor’s lab coat, nurse’s uniform). The bottom line is that when people perceive authority, they tend to comply.
  • This concept greatly pertains to social aggression: A man harassing a woman will usually back off if she suddenly squares up her shoulders, stares hard at him and speaks in a deep, primal voice, “Get out of my way, or else!” Dog are more effectively trained when the trainer uses a deeper voice.
  • Scammers pose as the government, law enforcement, the IRS, bill collectors, the security department from your credit card company, HR, accounting and more. Anytime an authoritive figure contacts you, be suspect.


  • Scarcity of an item makes it more appealing. Antique cars and rare old coins are worth more because there are few of them and a lot of people who want them.
  • This concept is used by marketers all the time. Ever hear “will soon be discontinued”? You suddenly buy a dozen of the product, even though you’ve hardly purchased it before. Ever hear “limited offer” and “but if you act now…”?
  • When there is a big storm/hurricane coming, people clear the shelves at the supermarket in fear they will not eat or drink.
  • Scammers understand scarcity is also associated with loss. They use the same principle when they tell you in a pop up if you don’t fix this, or in an email if you don’t act now, or over the phone if you don’t give up your username and password all your data/money etc will be gone, you won’t get paid next week etc. It’s limitless how they use scarcity.

I’ve said this before. Don’t be cattle. Don’t act like sheep. Most of the world functions based on the honor system. As long as everyone is honest, everything works seamlessly. The honor system is designed with the mindset that we are all sheep and there are no wolves. We know there are plenty of wolves.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

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