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 e‐mail. This paper aims to explain how victims of online fraud can be influenced by judgmental heuristics and cognition when they make nonnormative or sub‐optimal decisions.
The paper will analyse the content of 14 recent fraud e‐mails to explain how victims of online fraud can be influenced from a psychological perspective, using theories of bounded rationality, judgmental heuristics and cognition.
The paper suggests that e‐mail 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.
Considering the current and widespread problem of online fraud, this paper 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.
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