Influential Puppy Scam Methods

Dr. Robert Cialdini, known for his research on the psychology of influence, defined the influence in Science and Practice in six principles (O’Donnell, 2017).  Initially, these six principles are designed as weapons of influence in sales and marketing, influencing individual purchase behaviors.  Today, the same principles are used by Cyber-attackers.   Cialdini’s six principles of influence included: (1) Reciprocity, (2) Commitment and Consistency, (3) Social Proof, (4) Liking, (5) Authority, and (6) Scarcity.  Each principle is very distinct; for example, the principle of reciprocity makes people feel obligated to pay back or return the favor from others they received from where commitment and consistency, individuals stay with what they have already chosen.

Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Sleepy Meisha and Freya

Additionally, Social Proof is the principle where people tend to trust items endorsed by people they trust.  The liking principle is where individuals accept and act upon a request from someone they like.  The authority principle is different because individuals will follow the leader’s direction and the scarcity principle draws individuals to items that are perceived as unique or hard to attain.  The psychology of influence can be powerful in any area, especially bypassing cyber-defenses.  The scarcity principle is one technique used to manipulate, steal and destroy an individual or an organization.

Cyber-tackers will use any method of influence and to bypass cyber-defenses.  From my experience of pug breeding, there are several types of scams.  Pug puppies are difficult to find, especially at a reasonable price.  Good, reliable, and healthy pug puppies average $1,200 – $10,000.  The price depends on pedigree, size, and color.  About a year ago, a woman found a pug puppy ad on Craig’s list for $500, and the breeder accepted payment for the puppy through gift cards.  When it came for the puppy to arrive, there was no puppy and the woman contacted the breeder through email.  The breeder stated that the $500 was a deposit, so she would have to send another $500 on a gift card.  The time came again for the puppy to arrive, there was no puppy, instead, the price increased, so the woman sent another gift card.  Weeks go by and no puppy, so she contacted the breeder again, the price increased again because it was a different pedigree and the woman sent another gift card.  The time came again when the woman would receive the puppy, but the breeder’s circumstances changed and they moved.  The woman would have to send a crate and the woman would have to send a gift card to pay for transportation costs.  In the end, the woman sent over $5,000 in gift cards to a pug breeder she had never spoken to on the phone.  All communication was conducted through email and money was sent through gift cards.  Both the communication and money sent were impossible to trace.

In this example, the cyber attacker used several methods to scam the woman of thousands of dollars, her time, and a dog crate. The scam started with the scarcity principle of selling a puppy for half the average cost.  Then bypassed insurance and security methods from financial institutions by collecting payment through gift cards.  Sending gift cards, the woman could not dispute the charges on a credit card or with her bank.  The scarcity principle is a terrible method of conning someone on something available at a great price, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

Overall, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.  This actual example does have a happy ending.  The woman stopped all contact with the scammer, researched reliable breeders in her area, and purchased a beautiful pug from a breeder in Tennessee.  “Be wary of the situations where someone is trying to use it to persuade you to take an action.  Also, consider discussing this tendency and the examples of relevant scams as part of your security awareness training” (Zeltser, 2019).  In this example, this woman should have contacted the American Kennel Club (AKC) or any nationally known kennels on proper methods of buying a purebred pug puppy.

Works Cited

Chapple, M. and Seidl, D. Cyberwarfare: Information Operations in a Connected World, 2nd ed., Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2022

O’Donnellan, R. (2017, August 11).  The impact of the six principles of influence on cybersecurity.  Intuition.

Zeltser, L. (2019, June 9).  How the scarcity principle is used in online scams and attacks.

Copyright © 2019. My Pampered Pugs. All rights reserved.