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When gullibility becomes us: exploring the cultural roots of Indonesians’ susceptibility to investment fraud

Hendi Yogi Prabowo (Department of Accounting, Faculty of Business and Economics, Centre for Forensic Accounting Studies, Islamic University of Indonesia, Sleman, Indonesia)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Article publication date: 3 January 2023

Issue publication date: 11 January 2024




This paper aims to explore various cultural and behavioral issues associated with the problem of investment fraud in Indonesia.


By examining multiple cases of investment fraud in Indonesia as well as reviewing publicly available government reports, this study highlights several important cultural and behavioral issues associated with the susceptibility of Indonesian financial services consumers to investment fraud to understand better the dynamics of the victimization process. By using multiple cultural and behavioral theories, this study demonstrates how such issues shape the interactions between investment fraudsters and investment fraud victims.


This study demonstrates that multiple cultural and behavioral factors have created and shaped an environment where fraudsters can exploit people’s behavioral loopholes for their fraudulent schemes. In particular, the high power distance and high collectivism have been identified by this study as contributing to the high level of materialism in the country, which in turn makes people more susceptible to the temptation of get-rich-quick schemes. Investment fraudsters, being students of human behavior, use their behavioral knowledge to devise various means to deceive their victims. They use multiple psychological principles to stimulate target victims “gullibility to make them more vulnerable to fraudulent persuasion. In many cases, even financially literate people are not immune to fraudsters” deceitful messages. This study highlights gullibility production as a foundation for investment fraudsters to devise their means by which victims are manipulated to accept certain beliefs that depart from facts and evidence.

Practical implications

This paper contributes to the innovation in anti-fraud practice by building a better understanding of multiple cultural and behavioral issues associated with investment fraud victimization.


This paper brings a new perspective into the field of anti-fraud to stimulate innovation, in particular in investment fraud prevention.



The author would like to thank colleagues from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) Indonesia Chapter for their invaluable insights on a variety of consumer fraud-related issues in Indonesia.

Funding: The author declares that he does not receive any research grants to fund this project.

Conflict of interest: The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Informed consent: No human subjects were involved in this study.


Prabowo, H.Y. (2024), "When gullibility becomes us: exploring the cultural roots of Indonesians’ susceptibility to investment fraud", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 14-32.



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