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Online fraud and Victimisation

Fraud can be broadly defined as trickery used to gain a dishonest advantage, usually financial, over another person or organisation. Mass-marketing fraud (MMF) is a type of fraud that exploits mass communication techniques (such as Instant Messenger, bulk mailing, social networking sites and telemarketing) to con people out of money.

The 419 or 'Nigerian' scam is one example. In this scam the fraudster requests upfront fees with the promise that the victim will recover large sums of money in return for little effort.

However, not all mass-marketing frauds con the victim with the promise of making large sums of money. In the romance scam, for example, the criminal pretends to develop a romantic relationship with the victims and later requests money to help them, especially in a crisis. In the charity scam, victims believe they are giving money to a genuine charity.

The EPSRC-sponsored DAPM project explored online mass-marketing fraud – how it can be identified (using forensic linguistics and computer science), its psychological costs, and the ethical issues raised by its victimology and by police responses to it.

Professor Tom Sorell worked on the ethics of victimisation in romance scams, and on the ethics of online vigilante-ist responses (scambaiting).

Find out more.