First Advisor

Don Lindley


College of Contemporary Liberal Studies

Degree Name

MS Criminology

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Number of Pages

28 pages


Online romance scams cause a disproportionately high amount of loss to victims when compared to other cybercrimes, and evidence suggests these scams may be more pervasive than official figures indicate. Unlike some other cybercrimes, an online romance scam is only successful to the extent that the scammer can persuade the victim to carry out requests. In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, psychologist Robert Cialdini has identified six psychological principles often exploited by those seeking to gain the compliance of others; these principles may provide a good framework for understanding the effectiveness of the tactics used by online romance scammers. The study described in this paper sought to accomplish two goals. The first was to identify common themes related to the persuasion tactics used by online romance scammers through an analysis of first-hand stories told by victims. The study identified a number of key themes regarding what victims were led to believe by scammers during the course of the scam. The second goal was to discuss these findings within the context of Cialdini’s compliance principles. The study’s findings have potential implications for victims and their family members, social workers, members of the financial industry, social media, and law enforcement. It is hoped that a better understanding of how online romance scammers exploit victims’ psychological weaknesses will promote a culture of support for victims, and encourage greater attention to be given to this serious and devastating crime.

Date of Award

Spring 2017

Location (Creation)

Colorado (state); Denver (county); Denver (inhabited place)

Rights Statement

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Included in

Criminology Commons