Adapting the scam to these times

Since ancient times, scam has been a practice carried out by scammers in order to gain a benefit (usually economic) through deception or social engineering techniques. The number of known campaigns is enormous and, unfortunately, increases as technology media advances.

As we said, this is nothing new, one of the oldest cases is the well-known scam of the “Spanish prisoner”, in which the victim generally received a letter explaining that a high-class person had been imprisoned in Spain, and it was offered a large amount of money in exchange for contributing economically to his release. Over the years there have been several variants of this type of scam, but always sharing the same purpose, asking the victim for money to help in some kind of situation, in exchange for receiving a larger amount after the process.

As time progresses, new communication means emerge, and scammers adapt to such means to use them as distribution channels. The first clear example is the use of phone calls and SMS messages, which allowed them to reach a higher number of victims with less effort. Probably the best-known scam distribution medium is the email. Once email began to acquire users widely, and thanks to the capability of computers to automate tasks with little need for intervention, it has proven to be the most exploited scam distribution method in recent years.

But this doesn’t end here, scammers seek (and find) new distribution methods as technology advances and new media is developed. Long ago social networks were established as the new target of scammers, taking advantage of the credibility provided by a user profile (more or less elaborated) to trick victims. On the other hand, it is common to find news sites, blogs, etc. which incorporate commenting systems for their users, but unfortunately also provide a way for the indiscriminate sending of scam messages, targeting sites with more users to increase the likelihood of one of them falling.

Due to the continued growth of the scam and its varieties, different organizations have been formed with the aim of recording each identified case and working to prevent more people from suffering them, which is essential, since only in Australia is estimated a loss of around 80M$ in 2016. It is recommendable to follow the advice offered by those organizations, but the greatest tool against scam is common sense.

Oscar Llorente
Researcher in DT
Expertise: Scam, program analysis

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