The perpetual challenge in curbing scams lies in the scammers’ ability to continually elevate their tactics, leveraging technological advancements and refining their methods to exploit their targets more effectively. According to Jake Baron, a spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau, efforts to combat scams resemble a game of whack-a-mole, where new tools are constantly devised, but scammers adeptly adapt.
Scammers have evolved to excel in impersonating legitimate entities, going so far as to create websites and messages that mimic reputable healthcare providers, businesses, and banks. There is a noticeable reduction in grammatical errors and other tell-tale signs of scams, making detection more challenging, as pointed out by Baron.
Notably, criminals are capitalizing on technological innovations like artificial intelligence (AI) and sharpening their skills in psychological manipulation. Aaron Baker, the founder of Scam Alert, emphasizes the growing proficiency of scammers, especially in overseas call centers, who are trained to minimize accents and establish emotional connections with their targets.
Here are six scams that experts advise vigilance against in the current year:
- Check Cooking Scam:In a departure from the previous check-washing trend, criminals have adopted a less messy approach called check cooking. Thieves capture a digital image of a stolen check and utilize commercially available software to modify it. The altered check, complete with watermarks, appears authentic, enabling criminals to print a fraudulent check or deposit the manipulated image through a bank’s mobile app.
- Retail Fraud:The simplest way to describe retail fraud is theft from a commercial retail establishment resulting in financial loss and harm to the retailer says Michael Richards, with the Kitchener-Waterloo division of Centaur Security Services. Retail fraud is a criminal offense and there is a myriad of ways retail fraud can occur, both physically in a store and virtually online. With a shift towards more e-commerce-centric shopping environments, virtual retail fraud at scale has surged and darknet cyber criminals are at the crux of this fraud economy. In this blog, DarkOwl analysts review some of the most popular methods in use by cyber criminals and retail fraud related discussions observed in underground criminal networks.
- Voiceprint Scams:Technological advancements allow thieves to record your voice and generate a deepfake version using software. This voiceprint can be exploited to impersonate you and gain unauthorized access to sensitive accounts or even apply for official documents such as driver’s licenses says Michael Porter a Senior Private Investigator with Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc.
- Mortgage Fraud:The allure of “quick riches in real estate” may be enticing, but individuals who knowingly provide false information may unwittingly involve themselves in mortgage fraud says Scott Green with Toronto-based home equity loan lenders Homebase Mortgages.
Mortgage fraud involves the intentional distortion of information to secure mortgage financing that would have been denied if accurate details were disclosed.
Borrowers who deliberately misrepresent information, along with straw buyers who permit a property to be acquired under their name, are engaging in mortgage fraud. Such individuals will be accountable for any financial deficit in the event of loan default and may face criminal charges for their deceptive actions.
- Delayed-Action Sweepstakes Scam:A new twist on traditional sweepstakes scams involves scammers asking for personal information rather than immediate payment. Instead of requesting upfront taxes or fees, fraudsters seek personal details to purportedly validate your win. This information is then used for identity theft, potentially leading to a more prolonged and insidious form of financial exploitation.
- Virtual Celebrity Scam:With the surge in celebrities engaging in online events during the pandemic, scammers exploit fans’ familiarity with virtual interactions. Impersonating celebrities or their representatives on platforms like Instagram or Facebook, scammers build trust before requesting money for various fabricated reasons, such as resolving legal issues or funding a supposed financial need.
- Loan Fraud:Loan fraud occurs when a criminal illicitly utilizes your personal information to obtain a loan says Sarah Dwyer with Toronto-based second mortgage lender Mortgage Central Nationwide. For instance, a fraudster may fraudulently open a mortgage or take out a reverse mortgage in your name, exploiting your home equity and leaving you responsible for repayment.
Given that loan fraud hinges on the theft and misuse of personal information, it falls within the realm of identity theft. In 2020, loan or lease fraud ranked as the fourth most prevalent form of identity theft.
Scammers employ various methods to access your personal information. They may employ phishing scams to pilfer your personally identifiable information (PII) or coerce you into downloading malware that grants them unauthorized access to your device. However, with the surge in data breaches in recent years, purchasing your account details on the Dark Web has become a convenient option.
Many lending agencies only necessitate a minimal amount of information during the loan application process. For identity thieves, this implies that acquiring just a few key pieces of information, such as your Social Security number (SSN) or bank account number, is sufficient to secure a loan.
While security measures evolve, the adaptability and sophistication of scammers underline the need for ongoing awareness and caution in navigating the digital landscape.