Like previous years, the numerous scams anticipated in 2024 are likely to be modern variations of long-standing fraudulent schemes. Exploiting both new technologies and the emotions tied to forthcoming significant events, scammers and fraudsters aim to deceive and intimidate individuals. Their ultimate objective remains constant: obtaining your personal information or finances. Keeping informed about these evolving tactics is crucial to remaining vigilant and safeguarding yourself from falling victim to these schemes.
A striking illustration of scammers harnessing novel technology for existing schemes is evident in the use of artificial intelligence (AI). Through AI, scammers can:
- Craft more persuasive and authentic-sounding phishing emails and text messages.
- Generate deepfake content featuring celebrities to deceive victims into believing they’re investing in a legitimate company or project.
- Mimic a victim’s friend or family member to solicit money, mirroring the tactics of a grandparent scam.
- Pose as an employer to solicit personal information.
The ability to fabricate images, videos, or voices resembling others enhances the credibility of existing scams and introduces fresh avenues for exploitation by fraudsters.
Scammers employ various tactics to target individuals via phone, leveraging the capabilities of smartphones to access the internet and install malware. These scams encompass:
- Robocalls: Utilizing recorded voices that sound increasingly natural, robocalls inundate phones with offers ranging from auto warranties to vacations, or resort to threats to grab attention. Some robocalls even interact and respond to queries.
- Impersonation: Scammers pose as IRS agents, law enforcement officials, survey representatives, family members, delivery personnel, or reputable companies. They employ scare tactics related to Social Security numbers, criminal records, or accounts to coerce victims into sharing personal, account, or credit card information.
- Malicious Apps: Scammers may entice victims to install malicious applications designed to pilfer personal information. Additionally, they may create near-identical replicas of existing apps to profit from in-app purchases.
- QR Codes: While QR codes serve as convenient, touchless options for activities such as reading menus or making payments, scammers discreetly place their QR codes in inconspicuous locations. Scanning these codes might prompt victims to make unauthorized purchases or input credentials on fraudulent websites.
- SIM Swapping: This technique involves thieves reassigning a victim’s phone number to a SIM card in a device they control. Subsequently, they attempt to access accounts by intercepting codes or links sent to the victim’s phone number. Contacting the carrier for security measures against SIM swapping and using non-SMS multifactor authentication options, like authenticator apps, can help safeguard against such attacks.
- OTP Bots: Scammers employ OTP bots to deceive individuals into sharing authentication codes. The bot mimics a legitimate company and communicates via calls, texts, or emails, coinciding with the bank’s transmission of a one-time code. Responding to the bot’s request inadvertently provides the code to the scammer, enabling unauthorized access to the victim’s account.
Text Message Scams
Text message-based scams represent a prevalent category among phone scams, owing partly to the ease and affordability of texting. According to the 2022 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans fell victim to text scams in droves, resulting in losses exceeding $330 million in 2022.
These scams manifest in various guises, typically involving scammers impersonating reputable entities such as banks, online retailers, delivery services, or government agencies. They might assert suspicions of account activity, overdue bills, failed deliveries, or even claim selection for a job interview.
A common thread among these scams is their request for action: clicking on a link or dialing a number. Often categorized as smishing attempts, these actions aim to coax victims into divulging personal information or unknowingly installing malware onto their devices.
While the craze surrounding cryptocurrencies may have subsided, scammers continue to operate unabated. These fraudulent crypto scams exhibit diverse variations, encompassing fabricated prizes, contests, giveaways, and premature investment propositions.
In their pursuit, scammers often adopt personas of celebrities or established cryptocurrency platforms to entice unsuspecting individuals into sending funds, divulging login credentials, or participating in what appears to be an enticing project. Additionally, crypto exchange accounts have fallen victim to the OTP bot attack method mentioned earlier, thwarting access for the rightful owner while the scammer siphons funds from the compromised account.
Though not a new phenomenon, the prevalence of romance scams is on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported a staggering $1.3 billion loss to romance scams in 2022, with median losses averaging $4,400 per individual.
Scammers frequently employ tactics such as identity theft or the creation of fictitious profiles on dating and social media platforms to ensnare unsuspecting victims. Identifying fakes poses a challenge as scammers often utilize stock photos and invent reasons to avoid in-person meetings.
Upon gaining trust, scammers might request financial favors like purchases or money transfers. Alternatively, they might send money under the guise of an error and ask for its return or forwarding to another party. If the bank later identifies the transaction as fraudulent, the sum involved will be deducted from the victim’s account.
Romance scams typically initiate through private messages on social media or dating applications. These scams don’t discriminate and can target anyone – some scammers even aim to establish platonic relationships rather than solely romantic ones.
Online Purchase Scams
Online purchase scams persist as one of the most perilous types of fraud, as highlighted in the Better Business Bureau (BBB) 2022 Online Scams Report. Notably, the BBB found that individuals frequently fell victim to these scams when attempting to purchase a puppy online.
Some scammers establish fraudulent e-commerce platforms and advertise these websites on social media. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), approximately 44% of social media scams reported from January to June 2023 were linked to deceptive online shopping practices. Additionally, scammers may list items for sale on various online marketplaces, including those integrated into social media platforms.
Fraudsters may abscond with your money without delivering the promised item. Alternatively, they might engage in triangulation fraud by using someone else’s stolen credit card to purchase the item you bought. Often, victims remain unaware of the scam until they attempt to return the item or seek to utilize a warranty.
Vigilance is key. Look out for warning signs such as unrealistically low prices, insufficient details, or high-pressure sales tactics. Using a credit card for payment can mitigate potential losses, as it allows you to initiate a chargeback in cases where the product or service isn’t delivered as promised.
How to Avoid Falling Victim
While scammers frequently alter their tactics and communication approaches, adopting a few fundamental security measures can bolster your protection against the latest and most prevalent scams:
- Exercise skepticism when receiving unsolicited communications. Scammers can manipulate calls and emails to appear as if they originate from various sources such as government agencies, charitable organizations, banks, or prominent corporations. Refrain from sharing personal information, login credentials, passwords, or one-time access codes that could potentially compromise your accounts or lead to identity theft.
- Avoid clicking on unknown links. Whether received via email, text, or direct message, refrain from clicking on unfamiliar links unless you’re certain about the sender’s legitimacy. If the message purports to be from a reputable company or government entity, verify its authenticity by independently looking up the contact information and initiating communication.
- Exercise caution with incoming phone calls. In case of suspicion regarding a spam call, refrain from responding or engaging with prompts. The safest course of action is to disconnect the call or ignore it completely. Verify the legitimacy of the organization separately and make a call yourself if concerned about a potential issue.
- Implement multifactor authentication whenever possible, opting for non-SMS versions to safeguard against SIM swapping attacks.
- Conduct thorough research on companies before engaging in transactions. Take a few moments to investigate a company before making purchases or donations. Conduct web searches using the company’s name along with terms like “scam” or “reviews,” and consult platforms like Charity Navigator and CharityWatch when dealing with charities.
- Exercise caution when requested to refund or forward overpayments. Be vigilant when a company or individual urges you to refund or forward a portion of a payment, as the initial payment might be fraudulent and later retracted.
- Be wary of suspicious payment requests. Scammers frequently demand payments via wire transfer, money order, cryptocurrency, or gift cards, which are harder to trace and cancel, potentially leaving you without recourse.
- Establish a family password for verification purposes. Develop a unique family password to verify identities over the phone, ensuring it’s genuinely a family member and not an impersonator or deepfake recording.
Protecting yourself from scams and identity theft requires ongoing vigilance and attention to detail. By following these tips and staying aware of the latest threats, you can reduce your risk and keep your personal information safe. If you’ find yourself falling ‘ve been a victim of fraud, we can help. We employ an entire division of fraud investigators whose sole mission is to detect, deter, and defeat fraud. Contact us today for your free consultation.