Devices of Textual Illusion: Victimization in Romance Scam E-Letters
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Virtual communication transcends national boundaries and allows establishing and maintaining contacts efficiently. However, it also poses threats to integrity and ethical online conduct. In particular, dating sites and unsolicited e-messages often prey on vulnerable unsuspecting people with an intention to extort financial means. The internet is a medium where anonymity, disguise and fraud are widespread. Scammers use linguopsychological devices to lure potential victims into the scam scenario. Devices were screened and categorized from seven letter-sets (each set containing 18–23 letters) including correspondence with scammers. The sets revealed similar lexical and macrostructural patterns common in e-romance scam. Frequently employed devices appeared to signal scammers’ malicious intents often potentially detrimental to a victim. Persuasion, flattering, appeal to trust, core human drives such as bonding, greed, altruism are among the most popular scammers’ devices. The method of structural reduction allowed establishing functional stages in the macrostructure of letter-sets.