In their own words: deception detection by victims and near victims of fraud

Marianne Junger*, Luka Koning, Pieter Hartel, Bernard Veldkamp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
54 Downloads (Pure)


Aim: Research on deception detection has usually been executed in experimental settings in the laboratory. In contrast, the present research investigates deception detection by actual victims and near victims of fraud, as reported in their own words. Materials and methods: Our study is based on a nationally representative survey of 11 types of (mostly) online fraud victimization (N = 2,864). We used qualitative information from actual victims and near victims on why they didn’t fall for the fraud, or how, in hindsight, it could have been prevented. Results: The main detection strategies mentioned by near victims (N = 958) were 1) fraud knowledge (69%): these near victims clearly recognized fraud. Other strategies related to fraud knowledge were: noticing mistakes (27.9%), rules and principles about safe conduct (11.7%), and personal knowledge (7.1%). A second type of strategy was distrust (26.1%). A third strategy was ‘wise through experience’ (1.6%). Finally, a limited number of respondents (7.8%) searched for additional information: they contacted other people (5.5%), sought information online (4%), contacted the fraudster (2.9%), contacted their bank or credit card company (2.2%), or contacted the police (0.2%). Using knowledge as a strategy decreases the probability of victimization by a factor of 0.43. In contrast, all other strategies increased the likelihood of victimization by a factor of 1.6 or more. Strategies generally were uncorrelated, several strategies differed by type of fraud. About 40% of the actual victims (N = 243) believed that their victimization might have been prevented by: 1) seeking information (25.2%), 2) paying more attention (18.9%), 3) a third party doing something (16.2%), 4) following safety rules or principles, like using a safer way of paying or trading (14.4%), or by 5) ‘simply not going along with it’ (10.8%). Most of these strategies were associated with a higher, not lower, likelihood of victimization. Conclusion: Clearly, knowledge of fraud is the best strategy to avoid fraud victimization. Therefore, a more proactive approach is needed to inform the public about fraud and attackers’ modus operandi, so that potential victims already have knowledge of fraud upon encountering it. Just providing information online will not suffice to protect online users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1135369
JournalFrontiers in psychology
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2023


  • crime victimization
  • cybercrime
  • deception-detection
  • fraud victimization
  • human factors
  • online fraud


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