Merriam-Webster’s defines pretexting as the practice of presenting oneself as someone else in order to obtain private information. It is more than just creating a lie, in some cases it can be creating a whole new identity and then using that identity to manipulate the receipt of information. Pretexting can also be used to impersonate people in certain jobs and roles that they never themselves have done. Pretexting is also not a one-size fits all solution. A social engineer will have to develop many different pretexts over their career. All of them will have one thing in common, research. Good information gathering techniques can make or break a good pretext. Being able to mimic the perfect tech support rep is useless if your target does not use outside support.


Pretexting is also used in other areas of life other than social engineering. Sales, public speaking, so-called fortune tellers, NLP experts and even doctors, lawyers, therapists and the like all have to use a form of pretexting. They all have to create a scenario where a person is comfortable with releasing information they normally would not.

Importance of Pretexting

One of the most important aspects of social engineering is trust. If you cannot build trust you will most likely fail. A solid pretext is an essential part of building trust. If your alias, story, or identity has holes or lacks credibility or even the perception of credibility the target will most likely catch on. Similar to inserting the proper key in a lock, the right pretext provides the proper cues to those around you and can disarm their suspicions or doubts and open up the doors, so to speak.