Westminster language expert reveals the six language tricks financial fraudsters use
Linguistics 22 August 2017
Vishing is a growing problem for UK banks and businesses. Recently published figures showed that the UK lost £2 million each day in 2016 to financial fraud. As a consequence, Financial Fraud Action UK have launched a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of this growing phenomenon.
Dr Breen became involved in this as a consequence of his background in qualitative research and linguistic analysis, and was tasked with analysing a set of phone calls and transcripts, ranging from a few minutes to whole scenarios broken up over a total of several hours, into different episodes. Through doing this, he was able to identify some of the most common techniques used by financial fraudsters to build up patterns of trust and scam members of the public into handing over financial or personal information over the telephone.
In his report, Dr Breen found that six ‘patterns of trust’ emerged from his analysis of real-life evidence drawn from recordings and transcripts of scam phone calls. Fraudsters will:
- Use snippets of information about you, gathered together from different sources, to sound like they know what they’re talking about
- Create a false balance of power by using apologetic language for taking up your time to make you feel sympathetic towards them
- Remain patient as they continue to build up layers of seeming authenticity until you’re convinced they’re legitimate
- Assume the identity of someone in authority such as a fraud detection manager or a police officer investigating an ongoing crime
- Welcome your scepticism and turn it into a weakness by acknowledging your concerns about being security conscious
- Switch tempo and increase or decrease the pressure by creating a false sense of urgency or using understanding language
Even though most British people claim to be cautious of trusting strangers without meeting them - one in three (38 per cent) claim to ‘never really trust anyone’ when speaking over the phone – Dr Breen’s analysis of real-life frauds suggests that fraudsters are well prepared for our scepticism. He argues that by using the ‘patterns of trust’ approach, the financial fraudster can build up the appearance of legitimacy and get around our general wariness of strangers by mimicking patterns of language and behaviour that establish trust.
Dr Breen’s overall warning is that “The process used by fraudsters is carefully scripted from beginning to end – knowing the language fraudsters will use to mimic patterns of trust can help people to avoid becoming a victim.”
About the University of Westminster:
The University of Westminster boasts a vibrant learning environment attracting more than 20,000 students from over 150 nations and we continue to invest in our future with new developments, research projects and new ideas.
We offer highly attractive practice-based courses that are independently rated as excellent, many with international recognition. Our distinguished 180-year history has meant we lead the way in many areas of research, particularly politics, media, art and design, architecture and biomedical sciences, and our position in the city of London allows us to continue to build on our close connections with leading figures and organisations in these areas as well as in the worlds of business, information technology, politics and law.
Our commitment to educating graduates for the needs of professional life attracts high quality students from within the UK and around the globe.
Internationalisation, employability and sustainability are key elements in the University of Westminster’s vision for the future and we strive to ensure the very highest standards are met and maintained.