Anatomy of a “Lonely Hearts Scam” Day Two: Alignment

In a previous post, I was contacted by a con artist who mistakenly thought that I might be a good mark. Little did they know I study con artists and online scams. If you are just joining us start there.

What is Conversation Alignment?

Conversation Alignment is establishing a bias in our minds artificially by making you think they are similar to us. We tend to think that others who think like us will be trustworthy etc.

Ziva Kunda a psychologist performed some interesting studies on how we make decisions based on our biases. Her study showed that when given examples of people and asked if the subject thought the example would be successful or not (Marriage, business etc) the subject predominantly chose the example that was most like them. (Basically, that person is like me they will most likely be successful because that is what I would do)

So a con artist will use techniques to make us feel that we are similar, lowering our guard. The con artist will spend a lot of time setting up our existing bias. This is a slow process and can take time. However, the con artist knows this is their most powerful tool in their toolbox.

Day Two talking to the con artist.

Many people think that con artists are fast talkers. The truth is that they are better listeners. They spend a lot of time listening to what you have to say. Then they will find ways to agree with you. We do this all the time, conversations at work, at the bakery. The only difference is that the Con artist has a goal other than polite conversation.

Knowing this I needed o make sure that “Alice” was fed some false information. This also takes a step away from my real existence. So I created a story. (The same tricks that work on us also work on the con artist)

In this, I told a story about the VP of sales coming to visit my office and how the other employees got nervous. I based this on my time in sales or corporate IT.

It seems simple, and it is. The idea is to seem as normal as possible. This conversation could go on for days just like this. I if we were talking on a dating site and I go on and on about my job but never discuss romance they would get bored and find someone else to chat with. However a con artist ooooh they will eat it up and for some reason never say that I’m boring.

Tiny gestures of kindness

“Why don’t I wait for you to chat after work and don’t be caught playing with your mobile phone.”

A common technique of con artists is to do tiny favours for you. This can be as simple as paying for your coffee when you forgot your wallet. (Or the pickpocketed you) to simply open the door for you at a shop.

When this happens a tiny part of our brain thinks “Good person”, and we lower our defences just a little bit. To be clear I’m not suggesting that anyone who does something nice for you wants something…. there are genuinely nice people out there. Whereas some people just do it to be kind. Con artists do it so they seem kind.

Supply and demand but subtle

Con artists love to play with supply and demand. They are the only person that can provide this rare product. They just happen to own the deed to the Brooklin Bridge. Or in the case of a lonely hearts scam, they just happen to be the commodity. Unique

In the above text, you can see that she continued to align with my work stress reinforcing that connection. At the same time hinting at having money. Then when I do not reply after reading her message at 8:53 PM she gets grumpy at 11:00 PM. Truth be told I was watching movies with my wife and not interested in playing with con artists.

Lets break that down

Let’s start with the basics, Alice is not wrong. It is kind of rude. I have had to train myself to not look too deep when my friends see a message from me and do not reply. There are always other factors involved. but let’s look at it from a lonely hearts scam perspective.

How do you feel when you have offended someone you like by mistake? You feel bad. Almost as if you owe them a debt. Con artists use this all the time. They want you to feel like you owe them something. Sometimes they will even find ways to make you verbally apologize.

If you are thinking … That is tiny. who cares? You are correct. However, a confidence scam is often “death by a thousand cuts”

Now to shift the conversation

I spent 15 years in sales before discovering computers. My mentor told me “The only time a salesman is not talking about what they want is when they are talking to a better salesman” (He was a snake in the grass by the way)

Not only did I want to get away from the work conversation but I want to shift to something more interesting. So I both apologized for the delay and shifted the conversation to something where I know that romance and relationships would be a topic.

Next week I will show her reply.

Things get interesting as she starts to passively talk romance.

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