A faceless man in a black hoodie working on a laptop
A faceless man in a black hoodie working on a laptop

Technology is a Boon, Especially For Scammers

Paul Kiernan

We’ve hit a period in technology that can be considered a boom of sorts. With NFTs and Alt-coins, opportunities are abounding, And this is excellent news … for scammers.

A new technology arrives, and everyone is excited about the possibilities. It will make work easier and allow us to communicate further and reach people in a new way or whatnot. This is going to be great; all hail the incredible strides of technology!

The trouble is, fifteen minutes after someone introduces new technology that will have such an extraordinary impact on us as people, someone comes along and figures out a way to use that technology for nefarious purposes. Why is that? Why is someone always looking to use new technology for destructive purposes?

We’ve hit a period in technology that can be considered a boom of sorts. With NFTs and Alt-coins, opportunities are abounding, And this is excellent news … for scammers. When a new technology appears, scammers immediately think, oh, the future of fraud is bright and ready for the taking; yay, let’s take this new technology and scam people out of everything they own!!

The Federal Trade Commission released a report that found people lost nearly 8.8 billion in fraud in 2022. That’s quite a staggering sum. And it’s a rise in fraud by 30% over the previous year. According to this report, consumers reported losing more to investment scams than any other category; about 3.8 billion was lost in these types of scams.

The reality is that with every new piece of technology and new positive action, the reaction will be a scam.

The style of the scam

So, we invent great technology to make life easier and communication more productive and fun; yay! However, you can bet the farm on this; once that new technology hits the market, you will hear stories about it being used to separate you from your hard-earned money.

Right now, there are several running scams that people are falling for. Here are a few to keep an eye out for.

Rental assistance scam

The good news is the meat of the pandemic has passed. We’re no longer seeing images of semi-trucks being used as portable morgues. The bad news is that with the easing of pandemic fears, moratoriums on evictions are being lifted, and roughly 538,000 older adults are behind on their rent. This opens them up to assistance scams.

In this case, scammers pose as government or non-profit companies who want personal contact information to get these poor people out of the crushing debt they incurred during the pandemic.

Fake high-pay at-home jobs

inside view of a phonebox

If you’ve put your resume up on any job site, you can be sure that your information is being harvested for possible scams. This happens on legit sites like Monster, Indeed, and Career Builder. Once they have your information, they reach out through calls, emails, text messages, and even your social media accounts, offering extremely high-paying work-at-home jobs. They only need a bit more information. They will then use this information to stay on you, or they will use it to get you to send money for the “correct” home office setup for this great job.

Amazon fakes

Did you know that over one-third of business imposter-fraud claims involve scammers who claim they’re from Amazon? Yup, it’s true. You can get anything on Amazon, even scammed. People have said the scammers sound “real,” like Amazon employees. They ask for information about past orders or orders that cannot be delivered and need some information, account information, or personal information.

These Amazon scams can also involve gift cards and are perpetrated on the phone, by text, or by email.

Cryptocurrency payment scams

It’s hard to know a scam when the government makes it easier for scammers to attack. All those cryptocurrency ATMs we see popping up in grocery stores, gas stations, and Walgreens are scammer paradise.

Scammers pretend to be government officials, sweepstakes reps, or utility agents. They tell you your bill is late or that you’ve won a prize and just have to pay the handling. I mean, who wouldn’t pay a $100 handling fee for a new Mercedes? The problem is they instruct the scamee to pay through one of these crypto ATMs. They make payments at one o these ATMs to an untraceable wallet, and that’s it. Once the transaction happens, there is no way for the person to get their money back.

Tax imposters

This is an oldy but goody. Scammers pose as tax professionals either for state, local, or federal levels, and they claim you owe taxes. They will mine for personal information, take bank and routing numbers over the phone to pay delinquent taxes, and your entire financial world is wide open and vulnerable.

Another scam these folks try is to get you to buy hundreds of dollars in blank gift cards and send them to an address they give you. I have been on the receiving end of one of these scams; the person trying to get me to buy gift cards was quite abusive and confrontational, and they did not speak English well. But it was interesting to be verbally abused on the phone.

And the latest is,

The Google voice scam

Here’s the setup. You post something online for sale or service you offer and leave your personal information, including your phone number. The scammer calls pretends they are interested, but they claim they’ve been scammed before, so they need some proof. The scammer wants to verify that you’re not a scammer. This is brilliant because you think a scammer wouldn’t put the idea of a scam in my head, so this person must be legit.

They tell you you’re about to get a verification code from Google Voice and ask you to read it back. Sounds simple enough. But what they’re doing is setting up a Google Voice account in your name. With your voice, they can now perpetrate any number of crimes in your name and leave law enforcement far behind.

There are as many scams as there are victims to be had. Every new piece of technology affords scheming scammers the opportunity to get your money. With all the notifications about scammers and the usually blatant setup, why do people fall for scams?

Why we fall for scams

a man falling down a flight of stairs

Fraud is not new to us. Fraud has been moving hand in hand with innovation since the dawn of time. But as we get wiser, how come we cannot stay one step ahead of the scammers? It’s a good question. Who and why do people fall for scams? There are a few reasons we’ll examine now.

Most successful scammers have an excellent plan and story, and they work the intricacies of social engineering methods to reach their goals. In the broadest terms, social engineering is a non-technical tactic used to gain access to your computer, personal information, or banking information. It’s not high-tech, and we use social engineering every day. For example, you can socially engineer your way out of a parking ticket. Or, by using flattery, social engineer your boss to give you a raise.

So, how do scammers get people to fall for their tricks?

Cumulative knowledge

As we know, fraud has been around forever, and sometimes, the tried and true tactics are handed down. All that time working a scam gives the scammer vital information and ways to tweak it to make it harder to identify. Long-used games and personalities are so honed people can receive and scam email, but it’s been workshopped for so long that the receiver doesn’t even know it’s a scam email.

Your digital footprint

If you spend a lot of time on social media, talking to people, commenting on posts, and such, you’re giving potential scammers more information than you think. They will watch your digital interactions, gain more information about you emotionally and use that to exploit you. The more they know about you, the more avenues they have to scam you.

Good Storytellers

We all know that you need great storytelling skills when it comes to marketing and branding. Well, scammers understand the power of a well-told story as well.

Scammers work their stories and personas before they unleash them on the public. They have their game down solid. And they’ve worked their craft in such a way that it will bypass even your spam filters. They use personal information, stuff they’ve gleaned off the internet, and even employ some well-known national fears. Scams are high during pandemics, recessions, and other events that capture a vast amount of attention. Then, they’ll play on fear and national concern to scam you.

People still believe in a free lunch

With so many of us experiencing financial insecurity due to the ravages of the pandemic, this leaves people open to easy cash scams and offers of incredible investment returns or free trips, free money, free, gratis, free. But no matter how often we’re told there is no such thing as a free lunch, people are still easily caught in a scam because of the hope of a free lunch.

Obey authority

We are basically hardwired not to question authority, and scammers know this. They employ this desire to trust and listen to authority to take people for a ride. They use authoritative names, drop the name of government agencies, and some that sound as if they could, but you just don’t know, but they are an authority, so it must be okay.

This works exceptionally well in an email scam. Thieves use official-looking email signatures and headings to play upon people’s respect for authority to get personal information.

Who gets scammed

Everyone across the board is fair game for the scammer sect. They will cast a wide and varied net; you gotta play to win, right? Though anyone is ripe for a scam attack, there are certain types who fall for the scams. Here’s a little secret, the profile of people who fall for scams is probably not what you think.

The stereotype of older people with reduced cognitive function falling for scams is not the case. In fact, a study conducted by FIRNA and AARP shows that self-confidence is a crucial factor in those who fall for scams. People of any age who believe they are too bright or well-informed to fall for fraud are most likely to fall for one.

Well-educated people with their cognitive skill sin tact are also frequent victims. They are confident they don’t fit the profile and are too smart to be scammed. All this confidence means they are not being careful.

With good intell, sharp storytelling, and a reliance on social engineering, most scam artists will dupe someone. They have numbers in their favor.

Don’t believe anything

The best way to avoid being scammed is not to believe anything. Yes, you can up your security settings, make sure you have caller I.D. and the rest, But, bottom line, don't trust anyone you don't know, check with people who they mention, do research, and just be on top of your game as far as trust goes.

You know the scams out there; if not, Google them, so you know what’s going around.

In this age, there is nothing wrong with questioning anything that sounds just too good to be true or too weird to be right. Stay alert. Think like a thief a little, which may save you from being the victim of one.