The Characteristics of a scam

Its that time of year again! Christmas parties, secret Santa, cyber Friday sales and don’t mention the Christmas shopping. Surprisingly its also a peak holiday booking time for many people. I suspect mentally getting away from the dark winter nights and giving themselves something to look forward too.

For scammers it’s a feeding frenzy, their targets are occupied, distracted and busy. The perfect requirements for scam feeding territory. So, let’s break it down and review the key characteristics of a scam.

Initial engagement; This can come in two formats direct contact. For example, receiving an unsolicited email or a phone call. It’s a common mistake to think this will be from an unknown source it could be reporting to be from a trusted entity; including someone you may not have spoken with for a while. The other engagement is where you engage directly with that entity usually through a website that is fake.

Enticement; The key to any good scam is the hook. It’s actually not always something that has to be too good to be true. It can look credible, even reasonable. This plays on our human personality traits, such as under stress or in the case of dating scams simply lonely. There is another and I don’t mind sharing mine with you. And that’s to intrinsically trust that people are good, that they would operate under the same moral compass that I do. And that might sound strange from a security professional but more on this later on.

Time Pressure; The time pressure is set to remove the opportunity for deeper consideration. Its designed to place an eliminate of pressure on you to commit. Decisions required immediately or within the next couple of days or weeks should trigger that six sense in the back of your head. Its true to say often that does happen but we dismiss it against the enticement.

Financial Transaction; This is closely tied with time pressure as it looks to complete the scam. The only objective is this key stage if not through a online transaction but immediately followed by an invoice. In some cases, the finances are collected by a third party to distance themselves form the transaction. Ensuring this makes any recourse extremely difficult.

Truth -default Theory in Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book Talking to Strangers his single notion called “truth-default theory” that is humans tend to assume other people our telling the truth. And I resonate with that, why would you not. Well I guess by now you get it.

What can you do about it? well there is lots of advice online which I’ll post at the end, but I wanted to share what I have learnt to do to stop my truth default and its quite simple. When making any significant purchases I validate the opportunity with my wife. She is usually neutral to the situation and hears the opportunity in its raw form with no emotion or enticement. If there’s any reservation, we suggest we sit on it. Perhaps for 24hrs perhaps for weeks or months to see if we still feel the same way about the opportunity. When we make the purchases its always with a credit card that provides us with fraud cover.

Lastly if you are unfortunate enough to ever be a victim of fraud. Don’t completely despair. UK police have a great simple website for individuals or companies to report the crime and receive advice and guidance. To everyone from MA Consulting Ltd we wish all the readers a merry Christmas and happy new year. We hope you stay safe online and were available for any cyber security requirements.

For more information visit or contact

Previous articleIf you think cyber security is expensive – Your wrong!
Next article2020: A Regulatory Outlook for Financial Services