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6 ways online fraud has evolved in the past decade

Fraud has been around since 300BC, and it has evolved along with technology as the centuries have passed. Nowadays, fraud prevention methods have to be several steps ahead just to keep up, employing multiple techniques simultaneously. And with the current economic climate, fraud is bound to increase even more.

To help keep you safe from fraud, let’s look at six ways in which online fraud has evolved over the past decade. With expert fraud monitoring services, you and your business are protected from fraudsters trying to exploit vulnerabilities. This is an essential part of keeping yourself and your possessions, funds and assets secure. It will protect you from falling victim to fraud at the worst possible moment.

Crypto fraud

Cryptocurrency use is on the rise, thanks to the appeal of decentralized finance. Suddenly, people are free from the typical restrictions that traditional banks impose on their customers. Cryptocurrency is on an upward trajectory by eliminating the middleman and allowing for peer-to-peer digital transactions.

But that kind of freedom is also a gold mine for fraudsters. As more and more people use, Web3 i.e. crypto coins and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), bad actors also become more active.

One of their most common tactics is phishing – an age-old method that is still successful, regardless of the target market. In the crypto world, phishers try to get people’s information to access the victim’s digital wallets and steal their coins and NFTs. The lack of centralized regulation makes phishing even harder to track.

The Growth of Covid passport fraud

The Covid-19 pandemic has given way to more kinds of fraud being perpetrated, one of which is Covid passport fraud.

When lockdowns lifted and countries slowly reopened their borders for international visitors again, travelers found themselves having to prove their vaccination status. To simplify this process, countries such as the United Kingdom implemented a digital Covid pass. All users have to do is provide some information through an app, such as the NHS app, and a QR code containing their vaccination status is generated.

Of course, fraudsters found this to be an opportunity to target unknowing travelers into giving away their personal information and money. They usually target victims by sending fake emails or text messages, informing the recipient that they’re eligible for a Covid pass once they provide their information and payment method.

The NHS doesn’t charge for this digital document but that doesn’t stop fraudsters from tricking people into paying for one. The result is a double-whammy: not only do victims unknowingly give their personal information away (making them more vulnerable to identity theft), but they also lose money after paying for a bogus service.

Avoiding Social marketplace scams

Perhaps as a constant habit from the lockdowns, people are increasingly turning to selling their stuff online. And with the current economic climate, it’s an easy way to pocket some extra cash while decluttering your home.

While most people would use eBay to sell their unwanted items, some avoid the platform because of the fees charged once a sale is made. That makes social marketplaces such as Facebook marketplace an attractive option. The transaction is made directly between the buyer and the seller, and payment is made without intermediaries.

Unfortunately, most scammers take advantage of that direct transaction by asking for payment upfront – without ever intending to send the item they “sold.” Depending on how the buyer pays for the item, there might not be any recourse for the lost funds. More and more people fall for these scams in the guise of “trust.”

Charity scams: Playing on Peoples Generosity

People can be very generous, and fraudsters love that. All they need to do is mention something prominent, such as a recent natural disaster or an ongoing conflict, and they’ll easily make their way into unsuspecting people’s hearts and wallets.

There are two types of charity scammers: those who pose as a legitimate, registered charity and those who collect funds to benefit “something” that doesn’t actually exist.

Scammers who pose as registered charities typically have the documentation to make themselves look authentic, making them seem safer and more trustworthy. But instead of allocating the funds towards their purported cause, the supposed charity keeps most of the money for themselves.

Meanwhile, those who collect funds for a phantom cause usually do so through cold outreach and high-pressure tactics. They reach out to victims through phone calls, emails and social media, trying to stir emotion in them and hoping for a donation. Regardless of whether the user donates or not, they’re bombarded with robocalls and spam emails.

Flight and holiday scams

This may not have worked two decades ago when the global flight and vacation markets were steady, but the Covid-19 pandemic changed that. Lockdowns stopped people from traveling, leading to a mad rush of stir-crazy travelers once travel resumed once again.

And in people’s excitement to be somewhere again after several months of staying home, most of them fell into fraudsters’ traps. From incredibly cheap deals for non-existent destinations to overpriced accommodations, scammers are having a field day trying to take advantage of travelers itching to go somewhere again.

Covid grant / stimulus scams

Covid really brought the worst out of fraudsters, creating various opportunities for them to exploit. When they’re not scamming people, they’re scamming the government instead. Or sometimes, both.

Depending on the country, the Covid-related scam is slightly different, but the gist is for them to fraudulently get a government grant or stimulus check. Government grants are usually given to small businesses to assist them in reopening, while stimulus checks are issued to individuals as an income boost.

But for fraudsters, that means submitting grant applications for non-existent businesses. If approved, they keep the money for themselves, having done nothing to help the local economy. And as for stimulus checks, they employ various phishing attempts to convince people to give them their personal information and the money itself.

What’s unfortunate is that although some scams are only now being discovered and the process of recovering the funds has begun, many more have gone undetected. There’s no doubt we’ll be hearing about these scams for years.