Contrary to popular belief, fraudsters don’t necessarily need technological skills to scam you on the Internet. Knowing how to manipulate and exploit human behaviour is often a much more effective way of obtaining your confidential information and your access codes and stealing your identity. This is also what is known as “social engineering.”
Emails are often the tool of choice for fraudsters, whose imagination knows no bounds. Scams can target employees, professionals, business executives, institutions, public personalities, in fact, anyone who has a home email address.
For example, in 2018 alone, scams targeting individuals and businesses that make money transfers resulted in losses estimated at more than $1,2 billion $ (Business Email Compromise, Source FBI IC3)
Playing on your sensitivities
More than 30 different types of cybercrimes have been identified by the IC3 Internet Crime Complaint Center. The methods used often play on your emotions and exploit different situations to trick you. Some of these scams are also used on social networks to do profiling.
Sense of urgency
Many different pretexts are used and the instructions to follow require you to give personal and banking information or to take action for security reasons. The messages seem to come from legitimate sources and even from known providers with whom you have no business ties. Here are some examples:
- Overpayment: complete the form to obtain a reimbursement in your bank account or on your credit card
- Non payment, non delivery: provide your payment information to complete the purchase
- Denial of service: cannot fulfil your request, provide the missing information
- Error in your account: provide your login credentials, etc.
Security and misrepresentation
- Request to access your devices ostensibly to remove a virus or malware
- Misrepresentation: pretending to be an employee or a government department, agency or other organization to obtain your personal information
Sense of compassion
Relative in difficulty? Want to assist disaster victims? Help a sick person obtain a miracle treatment? All these messages pull at your heartstrings and you are tempted to respond generously to such requests.
Major disaster, persons in need
- Fraudsters are quick to exploit your desire to do good, particularly after natural disasters. They take this opportunity to create fictitious charitable organizations and take advantage of your good faith. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to obtain your credit card number or other personal information.
- Crucial for many organizations, the Holiday period is also a good time for crooks to slightly alter the name of a known organization to trick you.
Don’t forget that legitimate charitable organizations have a registration number, which is easy to verify if you are being solicited.
- Elderly persons are targets of choice for fraudsters, who invent very credible stories. By pretending to be their grandchildren in a bind who need help, they are able to obtain money from their victims: gift cards, credit cards or fund transfers are most frequently used in this type of situation. And of course everything has to remain secret so the parents won’t worry needlessly. The money never reaches its destination.
According to the Competition Bureau, in 2016 over 800 Canadians fell victim to this scam and lost more than $1 million in total.
Appetite for risk and hope
Who doesn’t dream of winning the lottery, winning a contest or a prize, making a quick buck? The attractive offers are often too good to be true and expert manipulators know exactly what to do to trick you. Here are some classic cases:
The non-existent prize
- To claim the prize, you have to enter or someone has to have done so on your behalf, or you have to provide your banking and personal information. Sometimes they ask you to dial a number which will entail charges or to send texts, which can prove very costly.
- A distant relative, often living abroad, has left you an inheritance. Of course, to collect the money, you have to pay inheritance taxes and transfer the money to a specific person… far away.
A golden investment
- Invest a small sum and obtain a return of tens of thousands of dollars in a few weeks? It’s easy: join a select group of investors who are going to get rich thanks to an extraordinary investment! Some of these initiatives may come from an acquaintance. The apparent quick gains serve only to draw other persons in your circle or family into the trap. The swindlers often vanish with all the money.
Love is…blind. This famous proverb never fails. Cybercriminals use meeting websites, social media or other means to trick their victims.
Looking for your soul mate, your attention is drawn to the photo of your potential beloved. A correspondence begins. The exchanges become intimate. Trust is built, familiarity grows… and you get hooked. It’s hard to ignore the requests for money to treat a sudden illness or to buy a plane ticket for a trip which your beloved will never take.
In the United States, this type of fraud resulted in losses of close to $363 million in 2018. (Source FBI IC3)
By hook or by crook!
Whether it’s by telephone, by letter, on the Internet, or by direct contact, fraudsters will do everything they can to pry from you the information they need to swindle you. As part of its information security awareness program, Professionals’ Financial urges you to be cautious. Because you can make a difference, read our publications on the different aspects to consider to better protect your informatio