Phishing emails: The Marshmallow Test for Adults

The Marshmallow experiment is one of the most famous studies in psychology. He examines how well-four-year-old children can resist the temptation to eat a marshmallow immediately. For the postponement, the child was rewarded with an additional marshmallow. What may be simple for adults is a challenge not to be underestimated for children.

Phishing messages are a modern adaptation of this experiment. Both experiments are concerned with pulse control or the ability to self-control. Recipients are particularly vulnerable when the message causes an emotional reaction, so specifically fear, curiosity or greed for money is addressed by the message.

Do you manage not to click on the link?

The recipient of the Phishing message has to resist the temptation to click on a Link and enter data. It is important to resist the impulse to satisfy the need for information: whether the own account has actually been hacked, an invoice has not been paid, where the million profit is to be paid or whether the bailiff is at the door.

How to recognize Scams, Fake and Phishing emails?

The following points should be reviewed by a recipient of a message. Each feature contributes to detecting a Phishing message. The more error characteristics there are, the higher the probability that the shipper is planning a fraud.


The first indicator, whether it is a phishing message, the sender. An existing sender with whom a contractual relationship exists has a trusting effect and makes it easier for fraudsters to trick the addressee into one click. Almost everyone is a customer at companies like Google, Facebook, Dropbox or Whatsapp. It is therefore not surprising to receive a message from one of these companies. Fraudsters use this trust advance. However, senders can easily be falsified.

The sender’s message can only be used to expose a fraudster who uses an unknown or obviously false sender. On the basis of the sender, the authenticity of the message can not be clearly verified.


If the subject causes Stress and motivates you to act quickly, you should be careful. Examples that cause a strong emotional reaction and are insecure:

  • Account locked;
  • Collection turned on;
  • Invoice not paid;
  • Your registration for XYZ;
  • Security notification;
  • Perform verification now;
  • Important message to your customer account;
  • Data security violated, payment data stolen.

Address, personal data

Lack of personal title with first name and name although the sender knows you, be careful. Reputable vendors make the effort to address their customers personally when they know the name and first name of their customers. But there are also Phishing letters, which have a more comprehensive record and they respond correctly and perhaps even know your postal address.

Supposedly only information known to you can be obtained or purchased partly from public registers. The address and telephone number of owners of a .com/.net/.org domain are stored, for example, in the publicly available WHOIS and are often used by spam senders. A Whois Domain Privacy protection can help here.


Fraudsters will be happy to block the account immediately if the holder does not respond immediately. Or it is already locked and can only be unlocked when personal details are made. The perceived urgency is a good indicator of a phishing message.

  • Your e-mail account has been blocked;
  • Your Facebook account has been suspended;
  • Data breach notification;
  • Your password expires in less than 24 hours;
  • Immediate change of password required;
  • A delivery attempt was made.

Spelling and grammar

Most phishing emails can be identified using incorrect spelling or grammar. Sometimes even Latin characters are displayed incorrectly. Noticeable are also cumbersome or unnaturally formulated sentences. Nevertheless, professionally formulated phishing letters appear.

Phishing Links

The most important feature of Phishing is the URL. This is not always recognizable in HTML e-mails, but can be made visible by letting the mouse pointer hover over the Link a few seconds. You can copy it with a right click (context menu) and paste it into a document to check it. This shows whether a different target has been hidden in the HTML Code.

The most important evaluation step is to identify the Top-Level Domain and the Second-Level Domain. Phishing emails attempt to disguise the true purpose of a link. For this purpose, strings are set before or after the actual destination URL. In order to make a valid Link preferred, the e-mail also places actual company links – for example to the real privacy policy or the imprint of the company. This gives the crucial phishing link more credibility.

With our phishing-check, you can investigate a phishing URL. Phishing check analyzes the URL and shows you the target domain by removing the irrelevant parts of the phishing URL.

  • Create bookmarks of the pages you visit regularly (banks, webmail accounts, cloud services, etc.). Instead of navigating through the link in the e-eail, you access your bookmarks. this also prevents you from typing in the URL.
  • A search through Google can help well-known companies find the right URL. In the case of less well-known websites, however, there is the risk that SEO-optimized providers are pushing in between.
  • Do not run attachments if you are not sure that they are from a secure sender.
  • Enter critical data only if the connection is encrypted via SSL. This can be seen by the fact that an https is used in the URL and the correct company domain is displayed. Nevertheless, it is important to make sure that it is the correct domain. For scammers can purchase a real SSL certificate for a similar-looking domain and offer a secure connection to a fake domain.
  • Where available, we recommend that you enable two-level verification or two-factor authentication.

Back to the marshmallow experiment for kids: on the question of whether the performance of children in the last 50 years has improved, said 52 percent of respondents to a Scientific situation to deteriorate. However, children have become better over time. This could be proven by John Protzko from the University of California in a Meta-Study2. Whether adults have developed better impulse control, is not as easy to say. The number of phishing victims, and the damage there is no current meta-study.

According to a Microsoft Research Team, phishing should be overrated. Both the estimated financial losses and the earning potential of phishing scammers would be exaggerated. Thus, the authors describe phishing as a” low-skill, low-reward ” business. The team interpreted already in 2008, a Study3 of the increasing number of phishing attacks as a proof for the dwindling success of phishing and draws on an analogy from fishing. Fish butter would have to sting ever further, longer and more often in the sea and would still catch less than before.

For phishing emails, this means: the more scammers phishing-sending mails, the less the scammers earned per attack. This leads to the fact that the fraudster will increasingly try to make more money through phishing. More phishing emails are not a sign of success, but a failure.

The team also counters the obvious argument that no scammers would continue to phishing if they were to make losses. So new phishing scammers are wrong about the actual earnings prospects. The phishing myth of high profits with little effort and a low level of qualification ensure a constant supply of new criminals.

From a company perspective, the risk of phishing may be overestimated. The Microsoft researchers cite in their study, the statement of a Paypal CSO, according to which, phishing for Paypal is one of the TOP 5 risks of loss.

However, the researchers do not fundamentally deny that phishing is a major problem. You can see both the individual damage to the recipient and the loss of trust that phishing causes in users.

Sex as an Action Sport

Out of the grubby corner: in the US, pornography is slowly becoming socially acceptable.

The names of the professional photo models are quite imaginative: the girls are Tia Bella, Janine, Lexus, Heather Hunter, Chasey Lain or Genteal. Neckisch advertise in magazines for clothing, lipsticks or other articles of daily use. In fact, however, the young women are tough professionals. Because all of them are under contract at America’s leading sex film studio Vivid Films.

Pornography has become hip in the prudish USA. More and more reputable American corporations market their products today, quite openly, with the help of relevant ladies. For example, for the eyewear of the Californian manufacturer Black Flys, the slim performers of Vivid Girls make advertising as well as for sportswear of the brand Fresh Jive.

Especially in the steadily growing market segment of lifestyle products for action sports fans, advertising with the light girls is extremely successful. “Sex-this is actually an action sport,” says Susan Yanetti, spokesperson for Vivid Films. “The target group of 18-to 35-year – olds who are interested in surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding and mountain biking knows our girls from sex movies – and she finds this association cool.“

Magazines such as “Inline”, “Mountain Biker”, “Blunt” and “Trasher”are correspondingly illustrated. Also, the cosmetics manufacturer Hard Candy flirts with the daring image: “Porn” is his latest lipstick color. The textile brand porn star promises to be a flamboyant Image-controversial and avant-garde at the same time.

It is no wonder that the escorting industry itself uses the opportunity to finally break out of the previous getto. “Our goal is now full social acceptance. So far, our profession has only existed on the margins of society. Our films are part of pop culture – and should therefore also be perceived as such” says Susan Yanetti.

With increasingly expensive films, whose production budgets can now be up to $250,000, the industry is now looking for the interest of customers. Figures speak for themselves: 697 million Hard-Core Videos were borrowed privately in the USA in 1997. “In 1997, sales for rental and purchase videos amounted to $4.2 billion, plus another billion Mail order businesses,” says Mark Curants from the industry journal “Adult Video News”.

And everyone wants a piece of the big cake. “The sex industry has transformed itself from a little significant subculture on the margins of society into an important component of American Pop culture,” notes the news magazine “US News & World Report“. The technical innovations such as Video, cable TV, Telephone and Cybersex have finally liberated the Old Lady pornography from the red light district – and at the same time brought the americans into the house.

Profits do not only the producers, but also the big intermediaries. Telephone companies such as AT&T, video stores, cable companies such as Time Warner and hotel chains such as Marriott, Hyatt and Holiday Inn deserve the shameless offer. The annual total volume in the US is estimated by insiders at ten billion dollars.

The removal of taboos of the porn business, not irritated only the religious rights of the United States. Also a pioneer of the business, the “Screw”-publisher Al Goldstein, can hardly believe how the industry presents in the meantime. “There are prizes for the best group sex scene – and the winner Weeps on stage or thanks her father. Sometimes I think I’m hallucinating.”

This is what happens when you reply to spam email

Sex Doesn’t Matter Anymore

The best-selling author and marketing consultant Martin Lindstrom about the greed of the people, why customers need Marketing and eroticism in advertising is outdated.

Mr. Lindstrom, why are we buying?

The motives for our consumption decisions are the same ones that have ensured the survival of our ancestors on the trees. Like the monkey 10,000 years ago, today we are driven by the fear of our survival, the search for Sex and the greed to be ahead of other people.

Isn’t that something generalizing?

On these basic elements, many layers of other influencing factors, but this does not change their effectiveness. For example, Infomercials ‘ sales mechanics appeal to our greed to be ahead of our fellow human beings. Because the most important message of these sales shows is the Suggestion that you have discovered a fantastic offer here, which will disappear forever if you do not react. The same mechanism also works with Pop-up Stores.

Is Sex not more often the smallest common denominator in sales waves to the subconscious?

On The Contrary. From the perspective of neuromarketing, Sex no longer plays a role.

Then why is it called “Sex sells”?

Sex attracts a lot of attention, but supersedes all accompanying information, such as a brand name. A sales-promoting effect occurs only when there is a controversy in the media about this campaign. But sexual images are so widely available in western culture today that the subject is simply no longer controversial.

Why should a Trader be interested in Neuromarketing today? After all, there is no lack of knowledge about the behaviour of consumers.

Germany is probably the most focused market worldwide when it comes to market research. But market research can only capture the conscious part of the formation. As a result, 100 percent of the energy is concentrated on 15 percent of the decision-making process. The entire marketing machinery only runs at 15 percent of its power.

Do consumers really need more Marketing in their lives?

You definitely need a more effective one. So, for example, advertising and trade misrepresent our senses. In our investigation we found that the acoustic impression is important for decision making, followed by the smell and only then comes our optical perception. In Marketing, however, 83 percent of all communications are designed for optics.

How important is the game with the subconscious customer requests for retail?

Even though everyone is talking about it in trade, it is no longer really about the size of the product range or the price. If traders want to remain competitive, they need to improve the sensual experience and Service. You need to focus on inspiring your customers.

But don’t you risk losing e-Commerce platforms? Already today, many customers go to the store for advice, then buy cheap on the Internet.

This may well mean that retailers need to expand their business model into integrated Multichannel solutions in order to still operate profitably. I am thinking of approaches as the Flagship Store of the Japanese mobile operator Docomo in Tokyo. This is all about the production of the products. If you really want to buy something, you have to go to the Website.

Is this knowledge of the sensual component of consumer decisions still available today?

In the 1970s and 1980s, traders still had this knowledge. Today, however, a Generation of MBA-influenced managers makes the decisions and those do not care, because there is no management manual for this.

Where can this lost knowledge be rediscovered?

I find Japan very inspiring on this topic. The trade there is five to seven years ahead of the Rest. It would also be a good idea to visit the traditional markets in Italy, France and Spain. There, the traders know how to appeal to our senses.

What do you recommend to traders who want to save their flight to Japan?

When looking for Gold, it’s helpful to know where to dig. Here, the findings of neuromarketing show what the retail sector needs to change in its market research in order to better understand its customers.

What exactly does that mean?

The retail trade is currently not interested in the right kind of data. Typically, product-focused sales figures are analyzed. The sensory environment and the context of purchasing, on the other hand, are not reflected in the analyses. In doing so, it has quite consequences for the shopping behavior, in which accompaniment and at what time a customer is standing in front of the shelves. Maybe the traders are just too close to the forest to really see the trees.

The author and the book

Martin Lindstrom, born in 1971, is an internationally recognized expert in the field of branding. At only twelve years, he founded his own advertising agency, laying the foundations for his career, which made him one of the most famous marketing gurus in the world. His clients include Walt Disney Company, Nestlé, Lego, American Express, Mercedes-Benz, McDonald’s and Microsoft.

His current book ” is based on a three-year Neuromarketing research project. With the methods of neural research, 2,000 subjects were analyzed for their product preferences. The Bestseller has now been translated into 25 languages.