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The Influence of Gender Discrimination on Female Fraudsters

Literature Review

In the financial sector, fraud is defined as the deliberate and intentional misrepresentation of goods, services, or other benefits to gain financial gain. Financial fraud is estimated to cost Americans $50 billion annually (Deevy, Lucich, & Beals, 2012). Beals, DeLiema, and Deevy (2015). According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 10.8 percent of American households were victims of financial fraud in 2011. Anderson (2013) Individual consumers paid between $100 and $300 on average for fraudulent offers. All adults, regardless of age, are vulnerable to financial fraud; however, older adults are especially vulnerable to this type of crime because they frequently rely on fixed incomes and have less time to recover losses. Several studies have suggested that people’s vulnerability to fraud changes as they age. For example, older adults appeared less adept at detecting and responding to deceptive facial cues (Castle et al., 2012).

Visceral factors are emotional states of high arousal that have been studied in persuasion and decision-making research. These visceral factors can be beneficial or detrimental. Con artists frequently use emotional manipulation to satisfy their victims’ demands (Loewenstein, 1996). Appealing to visceral factors is effective because it encourages heuristic or biased information processing rather than the laborious, higher-order cognitive processing required for complex decision-making tasks. This is because visceral appeals are more accessible for people to understand and respond to (Loewenstein, 2000). It has been proposed, for example, that when people are in a state of high emotional arousal, they are more likely to focus their attention on the reward cues associated with cons and pay less attention to the tell-tale signs of deception, which may reduce their proclivity to respond (Langenderfer & Shimp, 2001). Wang and colleagues (2012) discovered that focusing on visceral factors increased the likelihood of responding to phishing emails while decreasing the focus on deception indicators in these emails. As a result, the amount of cognitive effort required to process the emails was reduced. It should be no surprise that various emotions can affect our ability to process information and make decisions. For example, Lerner and colleagues (2003) discovered that anger inductions were associated with more pessimistic risk estimations and risk-seeking decisions. In contrast, fear negatively affected participants’ evaluations of unrelated situations.

Feminine Persuasion and Con Artistry

Female con artists tend to be very successful due to underlying gender-based factors. Most of the literature cites likability, confidence, and dark triad-stained character as the tools of an effective con artist—regardless of gender. However, the literature pins the most importance on likability, as opposed to the other two tools (Telfer, 2021). Gender relations between men and women play a significant role in determining the level of emotional arousal, a con artist’s likability, and effectiveness. As demonstrated earlier, a con’s persuasion abilities depend on their likability, which is linked to emotional arousal.

On average, the confident woman is very likable. Over the years, dominant cultural norms have reinforced the idea of a submissive woman in typical gender relations. Therefore, women tend to be more submissive (and less conspicuous) than men. This sets the stage for the likability of the confident and charming woman. She stands out among many others—allowing her to be likable. Such likability is often complemented by a carefree character typical of the dark-triad traits of most con artists (Greig and Hillier, n.d.). Combined, the dark triad makes a likable female con artist very persuasive since they can arouse intense emotions in victims. The literature indicates that such emotions make most people gullible to con schemes—and thus make the female con artist very effective in her schemes.


The female con artist is very confident, charming, and likable. This makes her stand out as an exceptional woman. Having the dark triad traits allows her to scheme without a care for the impacts of her actions on her victims. The likability, charm, and confidence in such women arouse intense emotions in their victims—making them gullible to their (female con’s) schemes. Since the confident and charming woman is likable, she is (on average) very successful at her schemes.


Anderson KB. Staff Report of the Bureau of Economics Federal Trade Commission; 2013. Consumer fraud in the United States, 2011: The third FTC survey. Retrieved from:

Beals M, DeLiema M, Deevy M. Framework for a taxonomy of fraud. 2015 Retrieved from:

Castle E, Eisenberger NI, Seeman TE, Moons WG, Boggero IA, Grinblatt MS, Taylor SE. Neural and behavioral bases of age differences in perceptions of trust. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012;109:20848–20852.

Deevy M, Lucich S, Beals M. Scams, Schemes & Swindles (Financial Fraud Research Center) 2012 Retrieved from:

Greig, C.J. and Hillier, K. (n.d.). The art of the con: ‘Inventing Anna,’ ‘The Tinder Swindler’ and gender. [online] The Conversation. Available at:

Langenderfer J, Shrimp TA. Consumer vulnerability to scams, swindles, and fraud: A new theory on visceral influences on persuasion. Psychology & Marketing. 2001;18:763–783.

Lerner JS, Gonzalez RM, Small DA, Fischhoff B. Effects of fear and anger on perceived risks of terrorism a national field experiment. Psychological Science. 2003;14:144–150.

Loewenstein G. Emotions in economic theory and economic behavior. The American Economic Review. 2000;90:426–432.

Loewenstein G. Out of control: Visceral influences on behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 1996;65:272–292.

Telfer, T. (2021). Why Are Women So Successful as Con Artists? [online] CrimeReads. Available at:

Wang J, Herath T, Chen R, Vishwanath A, Rao HR. Research article phishing susceptibility: An investigation into the processing of a targeted spear phishing email. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. 2012;55:345–362.


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