Victim of fraud? Your brain is responsible

An email in your inbox suggests that a Nigerian prince can make you rich quick, after investing in his escape fund. Your non-existent daughter texts with the request to transfer money: everyone comes into contact with scams, but only a few fall for it. Why?

Do you have to be conspicuously naive to fall for a scammer? No, according to Dutch research. People who fall for scammers come from all walks of life and of all ages. But they do have a different brain structure. Rutger Leukefeldt researched this for the Dutch crime center. Research on 3,000 people has already shown that there is no difference.

Link in the brain

In two American studies, people who were already victims of scams and people who had not had that experience were placed under the MRI scanner. What seems? There are differences in the brain that may explain why some subjects are more sensitive to fraud tactics.

There is often something wrong there in the connection between the hippocampus, the insula and the medial frontal cortex, which are large parts of the brain. In addition, it also appears that the group that was already a victim is more often unable to see, hear or smell properly. That makes sense: these people may also more often not pick up other signals, says Duke Han, researcher at UCLA for the Dutch newspaper Financieel Dagblad.


To say right now that you cannot do anything about it if you are fooled by a scammer, a lot has been said. It is a correlation, not a causal relationship. So more research needs to be done with larger groups of test subjects.

In addition, it is true that scammers are increasingly sneaky. There is of course phishing. And the chance that you will receive an audio message from your real son or daughter is not very small. This can be done via deepfake, but sometimes an existing contact is actually called and an audio message is recorded. In other words, pay attention.


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