How Could You be so Gullible? Scams and Over-Trust in Organizations

Journal of Business Ethics 160 (3):641-656 (2019)
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Trust is a key ingredient of business activities. Scams are spectacular betrayals of trust. When the victim is a powerful organization that does not look vulnerable at first sight, we can suspect that this organization has developed an excessive trust, or over-trust. In this article, we take over-trust as the result of the intentional production of gullibility by the scammer. The analysis of a historically famous scam case, the Elf “Great Sniffer Hoax,” suggests that the victim is made gullible by the scammer through a range of seduction and protection maneuvers that prevent the victim from developing doubts and suspicions. An integrated framework of the production of gullibility in organizations is proposed in order to further our understanding of over-trust. We discuss how these insights might be extended, beyond the case of scams, to more ordinary contexts of business activities.



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