The concept of the “Scam Artist” or “Con Man” has been around for an extremely long time. The reason for this is, they work.
Manipulation of Incentives
Typically these attacks are based upon an manipulation of incentives, typically though not always financial, to reward the attacker. The most recent example of this in the news has been the Bernard Madoff ponzi scheme.
Advance Fee Fraud
A well known example of a traditional scam moving online is called the advance fee fraud. The Internet has been an amazing tool for fraud, enabling frauds to be successful with lower conversion rates due to the widespread and expanded victim base. Profiles of what makes a good mark can be found here.
Psychology of Scams
One of the common arguments that victims use to justify engagement in suspected engagements is that they know and understand the topic they are being scammed on, and therefore will not become a victim. This was proven to not be the case by the well done study in the UK relating to “The Psychology of Scams”. This study, while long, is very well done and is recommended reading for all that have an interest in understanding why and how these sorts of scams work.