Remember the good old days of Nigerian email scams?
When the biggest threat of internet fraud was the attractive singles in your area?
Such simple times.
Especially compared to the types of internet fraud that can be found today.
The internet is not a concept anymore.
Most people on this planet have decades of experience with the world wide web and have seen it evolve since the days it was still referred to as the “worldwide web”.
People have learned how to identify and avoid the different types of internet fraud since their first days of logging on.
But the conspirators behind internet fraud have also learned how to evolve their methods of deception.
What once was an easy means of fooling people due to their inexperience online has become a craft of complex manipulation.
And, you may not be aware of new, destructive, types of internet fraud used today.
Good thing you’re about to receive a crash course.
Internet fraud is not entirely similar to computer hacking, but it’s close.
Whereas internet fraud is committed with one goal in mind.
Exploiting you for their benefit.
As it is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigations page of scams and safety:
“Internet fraud is the use of Internet services or software with Internet access to defraud victims or to otherwise take advantage of them.”
In its infancy, the internet witnessed its first cases of internet fraud in the form of Phishing emails.
Fake messages and forged documents were exchanging digital hands in the early 1970s (yes the internet was around back then).
The act of lying had a new medium to explore and people wasted no time in learning how to make it sever their interests.
Fabricating the truth to trick people became incredibly easier without showing your face or being required to speak.
You only had to deceive their eyes.
However, the internet was pretty limited in the 70s.
It wasn’t widely available as it is today, nor was it remotely as advanced as it would become.
The basic operations of the new service restricted a handful of fraudsters to telling lies in emails.
With the internet finding its way into more homes and cyber cafes over time, the channels were flooding with new potential victims to scam out of information and money.
It wouldn’t be until the mid-90s with the dawn of e-commerce would it begin to become commonplace.
Online marketplaces were seen as easy victims due to their lack of fraudulent foresight. “Famous Names” was the practice of using celebrity names on purchasing accounts while using stolen credit cards to make pricey purchases.
At the time, internet merchants did not ask to verify the name on the credit card with the identity linked to the customer before the purchase was made.
Therefore, while the alleged Micheal Jackson was racking up $12,000 in purchases, Bob from Minnesota was actually paying for it.
By 1998, Famous Names evolved with the security of e-commerce sites.
Harvesting credit card numbers became essential for fraudsters to continue the scam.
The most popular bait and switch method used against customers involved posting bogus advertisements to an online marketplace under the guise of a popular company.
The ads typically offered a desirable product from a popular company at discount prices.
After the customer clicked on the advertisement they were taken to an alternative dummy site to fill out their soon-to-be-stolen credit card information.
The dummy sites would also offer their own marketplace to attract new customers with the allure of fake products.
Before the credit card companies could flag the card and charge-backs could occur, the sites were shut down and the culprits fled with a catalog of stolen credit card numbers.
Eventually, the merchants created consumer account profiles to verify identities and track the spending habits of their customers.
Therefore, the customers who were performing suspicious activity were easier to identify.
And, the marketplaces and their real customers could have some level of guaranteed protection against fraud.
The rising popularity of sites such as eBay and uBid led to the credibility of faithful internet commercialism.
However, problems would still continue to arise in the battle against fraud in the marketplace.
And across the entire internet for that matter.
The defenses to protect yourself from it made “it” more complicated and tactful in execution.
Here’s a fun fact about those “Nigerian 419” email scams.
Do you remember how the stories were filled with obvious grammatical and spelling errors?
They were written that way on purpose.
The linguistic structure of the story being told was intentionally designed as a means to filter out the people who could deduce the email was part of a scam.
With the more perceptive readers out of the equation, the scammers could focus their time and efforts on those who were more susceptible to being victimized.
If the person either could not recognize the mistakes in the message or ignored the errors, under the assumption that the sender was a non-native speaker of the language, they were seen as easy prey to target.
The scammers would then manipulate the target’s empathy, greed, or intelligence to push them farther and farther into their life-destroying traps. This is so incredibly wickedly and despicably intelligent.
I do not approve of it, but I’m thoroughly impressed by their means of knowing how to capture their market.
I know the last part will not be approved by the editor, but hopefully, you found it as interesting as I did.
As described above, fraudsters are very particular with how they present fraud to you.
A commonality they share is story structure.
Usually, the story aims to form a personal connection with you.
They appeal to your desires for wealth, safety, or compassion.
The stories are dressed in flamboyant fashion.
They have over-the-top introductions, extraordinary story elements, and implausible outcomes to what they offer.
Most phishing emails can even be found using the same styles of phrasing or wording despite having completely different stories.
And as different as each story is, they all share the same point.
Getting you to provide them your personal banking information.
Even if the author isn’t from Nigeria, but a person on Facebook attempting to con you out of something (time, money, support, allegiance, etc.) the structure to hook you is always the same.
Get your attention with something exciting (positively or negatively), intrigue you with some form of misinformation that engages you, then requires you to perform some form of action.
It’s all persuasive trickery.
The main takeaway here: If someone contacts you out of the blue and they are asking you to do something for them by the end, especially if it’s sending them money or information, it’s probably fraudulent.
The goal of graphical design is to create an image that grabs your attention and evokes a specific reactionary response: enticement, outrage, intrigue, arousal, etc.
But, one of the strongest and most effective reactions is fear. If they can make you panic, you’re more inclined to be suckered into the schemes of their “Scareware."
Two of the more popular types of internet fraud to elicit panic trick you into believing you are under attack or committing a crime.
You want to protect your computer and all of the sensitive information contained inside of it.
So you probably take certain precautions by installing virus protection software or keeping your systems up to date.
The fraudsters know your concerns are your weakness and they aim to use them against you.
Phony Threat Reports are pop-ups pretending your computer is under attack, often offering free security services to resolve the problem for you.
The graphics use similar color tones and layouts to replicate legitimate security companies, but look “cheaper”.
Compared to certified companies, fraudulent replicas typically include these elements:
Lawful-Themed Ransomware is designed to make you believe you are in trouble with the government.
Making you believe you have committed a serious criminal cyber offense and your system will be seized and spending time in a federal prison is in your future.
THAT IS UNLESS YOU BUY THESE RETAILER GIFT CARDS OR SEND $500!
Good to know I can be exonerated of my crimes against America with the purchase of a Walmart gift card.
Personally speaking, the first time I received one of these, I panicked.
I wasn’t doing anything illegal and I wanted to quickly get to the reason as to why I was receiving this.
I didn’t want to go to prison for no reason.
And then… I saw the get-out-of-jail gift cards. Almost got me fraudsters, almost got me.
The best recommendations where to report internet fraud are:
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center -To report internet fraud, fake emails, malware, and scams.
Econsumer.gov - to report International scams online
Reporting complaints and information helps bring everyone one step closer to fighting internet fraud and online scams.
Victims of internet fraud can find assistance and information on these sites and reach out for help as well.
Be safe and have a nice day!