“Cybercrime is a criminal offense on any information network or the Internet and a violation of law in cyberspace. It is a computer-based crime, or an electronic crime carried out through the Internet, disturbing operations through malicious programs, sale of piracy, stalking victims, or heist of identity on the Internet – a crime with many faces of offence.”
In the past, criminals practiced manual techniques to scam victims: through mailing letters, faxes, and telephone calls. As technology advanced, criminals customized their strategies to target new victims. Now, criminals use the medium the Internet (and email) to hit their targets cost effectively and easily.
The comprehensive nature of the Internet serves well for cybercriminals. They operate from countries with relaxed or nonexistent laws against online crime. A criminal in Nigeria can target American victims through email; Romanian thieves can bait users through falsified online bank sign-in pages; Mexican criminals can hook foreigners through text message spam. Most cybercriminals see online scams as a nameless, faceless, fly-by-night crime that provides low risk and high rewards.
Although victims of online scams usually lack security alertness and online threat awareness, fraud isn’t restricted to the undereducated; smart and savvy humans are also victims. Scammers succeed because they target ordinary human susceptibilities such as fear, greed, lack of hesitation, and gullibility.
Each scam is a numbers game. A fraud may become unsuccessful because the victim won’t collaborate for numerous reasons, such as distrust, caution, apathy, intuition, or suspicion. To thrive, a scammer must utilize human vulnerabilities, and to identify ideal targets, the scammer has to cycle through lots of people. For every thousand emails mailed out, a cybercriminal may get only a handful of responses—but just one or two positive responses could yield hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Variety and Persistence
A successful criminal activity thrives on variety. A single scammer can perform different scams and gain big money. In one scam, they may carry out wire transfer fraud; in another, they might harvest sensitive data via targeted emails; in a third scam, they could prey on shopping department personnel through a phony B2B (business-to-business) website. Another scammer might execute identity theft to maintain other schemes, such as the healthcare scam.
Persistence and variety are successful characteristics for any scammer. Online scammers, similar to fishermen, cast wide nets in different places to grab a lot of what they are looking for.
Scams are delicate things: just a little confusion, suspicion, or common sense can warn a potential target and prevent the fraud. However, because the odds of making easy money from an online scam are quite high and scammers only require one individual to fall for the scam, cybercriminals have the motivation to persist.
Reasons Behind the Success of Scams
Technology has made it effortless to reach the masses through group emailing systems. Cybercriminals leverage technology not only to camouflage identity and set up fake emails and websites, but also to hit a large number of people all over the globe at a very low expense.
But, the success of scammers cannot be connected to technology alone. Scams function because of our different emotional susceptibilities and behavioral limitations. Technology has only made it easier for scammers to play on our emotions and hasten our feedback out of a sense of urgency.
Usually, it is the savvy and brilliant kind of users, who make for an easy target for scammers. The play is on their capability to get involved, considering that the risk is small. They understand technology adequately enough to not fall for any cyberfraud, and there may be gains in this attitude. However, once they come out to engage with the scammer, the web tightens as they ignore to admit that they can fall victim to a fraud. Even after they sense the scam and appear to worry that they are being cheated, they slip into rejection about the loss. They fail to handle the guilt of their choices and admit their gullibility. So, they refuse to end the communication with the scammer, wishing to get equal with the scammer.
Cybercriminals play on these emotions and utilize our capability to make irrational decisions under the influence of emotions. For instance, an email from an ‘authority,’ like the government, the taxman, the bank, or the police, will invoke worry. An email threat which informs you that access to your bank account is being rejected or that your debit card has been cut off will capture your attention and generate an action arising out of fear. Names, designations, and signatures of authority are the bait that will make you click the email and open the link therein. From there, the slide downhill starts.
Present Day Scams
The Internet enables new generations of cybercriminals to add contemporary twists on old scams. Before email was familiar, cybercriminals corrupted mail and telephone services to deceive individuals and firms. Fraudsters sent get-rich-quick practices as chain letters to mailboxes all over America. In its primary form, a chain letter fraud utilizes a list of names and addresses with an application for the recipient to send money to those people.
In return, the victim’s name and address are filed and distributed with the promise of exponential monetary benefit. However, the financial gain is secured by whoever manages the scheme. Chain letter scam persists in the mail and email forms. Many victims are attracted to the prospect of a low-risk investment with high-yield potential.
Many present-day scams are an adaptation or improvement over older schemes. Insurance scams are old-fashioned, but criminals exploit them in unpredictable new ways. Healthcare scams cost US taxpayers more than $80 billion in 2014. Medicare and Medicaid are deceived in the millions; the biggest Medicare fraud disclosed to date earned $225 million. On the heels of US healthcare reform, senior citizens were being cheated by criminals, exhorting healthcare reform and soliciting health insurance fraud.
Therefore , it is important to become aware of the nature of scams and the motivation behind them, in order to build a culture of scam resistance in your organization. Educating your employees about scamming techniques and cybercrime methods will go a long way in preventing individual as well enterprise-wide scams. NetSentries, with its comprehensive security assessment services, can identify vulnerabilities in your technology infrastructure, people, and processes to ensure that you remain always protected. Call us or leave us a message to learn how we can help you.