Social engineering and collections may seem like two vastly different professions. However, they share many similarities when it comes to using influence tactics to achieve their respective goals. Before my work as a Human Risk Analyst for Social-Engineer, I had previously worked in this field of collections. This involved talking to people on the phone and collecting past due payments on retail credit cards. Looking back on my previous occupation, I can see first-hand just how similar these two jobs of mine are! Especially when it comes to the influence tactics used in both professions on a daily basis. In this blog, we will explore three of those common influence tactics and how they apply to both social engineering and collections.

Influence tactics in everyday life


Concession is the act of making a compromise or giving something up to the other party. It typically begins by making an initial request or demand that is intentionally high or unrealistic. When the initial request is rejected, a smaller, more reasonable request is made.

A social engineer may use this influence tactic to gain the trust of their target and influence them to divulge sensitive information. As an example, after building rapport, a social engineer may start by asking for highly sensitive data like login credentials with the knowledge that the request will likely be denied by their target. Then, the social engineer can “compromise” and follow up with a request for less sensitive information, such as their target’s email address or phone number. The target may now be more inclined to comply since they feel the caller addressed their needs and is looking out for their interests.

Similarly, in collections, a collector may use concession to negotiate payment terms with someone that is resistant to making payments. For example, a collections agent may initially request that the debtor pay the full amount or past due balance immediately. If the debtor refuses as the collector expects, they can then follow up with a more reasonable payment plan to resolve their debt. This type of concession helps the debtor feel as though they have gained a small victory and may be more willing to comply with the collection’s agent further.


This influence tactic is the concept that people are more likely to comply with requests from someone they like or are moved to like. This can come about by way of liking what is familiar to them, positive reinforcement, or appreciation. A social engineer may use liking to build rapport with the target and gain their trust. For example, they might use small talk to find common ground with the target, such as shared interests or hobbies. They could crack jokes and try to get their target to laugh, dropping their defenses. Once a positive relationship is established, a social engineer can use this to influence their target to provide sensitive information, or grant access to a secure area.

Influence Tactics in Everyday Life

In collections, this technique is also used to build a positive relationship with the debtor with the goal of increasing the chance of collecting a payment. From my personal experience this may be difficult at times, as many might not exactly want you to be their best friend. Throughout the call though, a collector may also try and build rapport by creating small talk or finding common ground. However, an even more effective way is by truly listening to the debtor and acknowledging their current situation. Making sure they feel heard is a great form of Liking. The collector may then use this rapport to negotiate a payment plan or convince the debtor to make a partial payment.

Social Proof

Social proof is based off the idea that people are more likely to follow the actions of others, especially those they perceive as similar or authoritative. The bandwagon effect of “everyone else is doing it” is a very effective way a social engineer can influence someone to take a specific action or make a decision. For example, a social engineer might use social proof to convince their target that they are calling from their IT (Information Technology) Department, changing out login credentials as they’ve done with “the rest of the staff.” By making it seem like everyone else has already complied, and by posing as an authority figure, the target may feel obligated to share sensitive information.

Influence Tactics in everyday life

In collections, the debtor already knows that you are essentially an “authority figure” of sorts, in that you represent a company asking for their money back. To use social proof effectively here, a collector might use this tactic to highlight effective payment plans that have worked for others or testimonials from satisfied customers. They may even highlight the number of people who have been in a similar position, and how they were able to resolve their debts with the collection agency’s help. By demonstrating that others have already taken the desired action, the collections agent can leverage the power of social proof to persuade the debtor to pay their debts as well.


As we noted in the above tactics of Concession, Liking, and Social Proof, the common overlap found in both Social Engineering and Collections is in building trust with the other party. If we can establish enough rapport, it increases the likelihood of a positive result for the social engineer or collections agent. By understanding these influence tactics, professionals in both fields can become even more effective in their work. In fact, many other professions can use these techniques as well.

However, it is important to note that these tactics should always be used in an ethical manner and with the utmost respect for the other party, regardless of profession. The influence tactics used in both social engineering and collections can have the potential to do harm, if they are not used ethically. So, it is crucial that practitioners in both of these fields prioritize the well-being of their targets or debtors above all else.

Josten Peña

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