Beware of the fun games on the first celebrity crush! You could be the next victim of Covid online fraud

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If you’re already on Twitter or Facebook, you may have seen prompts like: Date a photo of your first celebrity crush. Tell me your hilarious pornstar name along with the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on. Or: Find your medieval name using the date and month of your birth.

Harmless fun, right? Except that you may have given passwords, answers to security questions, and clues about your age, location, and perhaps some of your interests – all of which are interesting leads for scammers looking on. the Web with information to help them break credit card accounts or cheat people. hand over money.

Fraud targeting consumers and online transactions is on the rise everywhere, and we all need to be smarter not to get caught. Banks run fast to deal with risks, but they need the help of telecoms as well as internet and social media companies. And legislation may be the only way to encourage their cooperation amid concerns about data privacy and commercial interests.

The UK appears to be one of the top targets for scammers, experts say, largely because it’s a wealthy country with a high adoption of digital services, and English is one of the most popular languages. spoken to the world. Over £ 750million ($ 992million) was lost to fraud in the first half of 2021 in Britain, up from £ 582million in the same period last year, according to UK Finance, a commercial body.

This type of theft was already on the rise as consumers shopped and banked more online, but it was supercharged during the Covid-19 pandemic thanks to the rise of digital transactions and people using more services they were not familiar with. In addition to finding clues in strings of tweets (as in the examples above), scammers use mass text messaging (aka smishing), advertisements for bogus investments or mules of money, spoofing e-mail identity and romance scams. There has even been a foreclosure boom in fake puppy scams.

Most people think they are smart enough to avoid mistakes, but it only takes a second of carelessness to create an opening.

Some of the biggest losses occur when criminals intercept email traffic between businesses and suppliers, or between homebuyers and their lawyers. At the last minute, scammers will email the buyer from a bogus address and give them new or corrected bank details. Without keeping a constant watchful eye in the midst of one of the most stressful transactions of your life, hundreds of thousands of dollars can disappear in a flash.

But even smaller frauds, such as bogus offers to buy wanted sneakers or deceptive texts saying you missed a package delivery, can be the start of your card details being captured and other criminals trying. to take you for larger sums, explains Jon. Shilland, responsible for fraud threats for Britain’s National Economic Crime Center. “It can fuel a recovery room scam where someone calls you to say they can help you get your money back, which can lead to the kind of losses that ruin someone’s life,” he says. he.

Authorities find it difficult to tackle such scams. Bankers say they need more help from social media and telecommunications platforms to help spot shady activity earlier in the process. “We only see the piece where the [money] transfer happens, we don’t see when the customer is trapped, ”says Jim Winters, Fraud Manager at Barclays UK

What is needed is a lot more cooperation and information sharing between the banks themselves, but also between the banks and all the tech and communications companies involved. In Britain, a new online safety law passed by Parliament contains provisions to make companies liable for policing investment scams and romance scams, but not fraudulent advertising.

The Financial Conduct Authority has lobbied internet companies to better control their advertisers, but progress has been slow and stronger law would help. For example, Google at least requires any investment firm purchasing search advertising in the UK to prove that it is on the regulator’s financial register. But this policy did not begin until September 2021.

The UK could also do more to promote its email and text reporting services. The more data it collects on the types of scams and the email addresses and phone numbers used, the better able law enforcement will be to profile and defeat threats. The US Federal Reserve is also trying to get the word out on social media and elsewhere.

Some things are more difficult, like tracking stolen money, which usually moves quickly from bank to bank via unintentional money mules. For example, many people will respond to a Whatsapp or Telegram ad, post or message offering them a chance to make money just by receiving and sending a certain amount of money. But it can turn them into both money launderers and victims of fraud.

To be fair, the banks take these issues seriously. They analyze tons of data and customer behavior to spot and stop suspicious payments before they happen, from payments for unusual merchandise or in unlikely places to the way you hold your phone or browse the website. from your bank. On thousands of alerts a day, among hundreds of thousands of transactions, some customers will receive a phone call from a trained specialist to make sure they know where their money is going. People often accept this as a moderate inconvenience and don’t need more than a minute or two to think about it to change their mind, says Elizabeth Ziegler, Fraud Prevention Manager at Lloyds Banking Group.

But reaching customers can be more difficult when there is emotion, such as when someone is convinced that they are going to make a lot of money, or if they have been pressured by criminals. pretending to be, for example, the tax authorities or the police, or if I have been seduced by a romance scam.

“Customers can be quite angry, ‘I know what I want, who are you to tell me what to do with my money?’ And that’s their money, ”Ziegler says. “We’re not hobbyist sleuths, or here to give investment advice. We just need to make sure that you are well equipped for this decision. Despite the controls, some people will still lose their money.

Agencies

However, prevention is better than cure: you cannot get out of an epidemic of fraud. There are too many of them and the criminals can be anywhere in the world. Better data and analytics are key to spotting attack patterns and sources, but both will involve addressing the challenges of data protection and content moderation.

Meanwhile, tech and communications companies are likely to prefer to maximize their revenues and keep their costs down when fraud is only a small part of what happens on their networks and they are usually not the ones to be blamed by. consumers for scams. But these companies need to do more.

For us users of all of these things, we’ll need to strike the right balance between having nifty, easy-to-use digital tools and minimizing the risks associated with such convenience.



Stricter legislation and rules to promote intersectoral cooperation would be helpful. More public education in digital security would also be. Most importantly, we all need to stay alert and stop tweeting song # 1 when we are born.



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