Our annual review of internet scams highlights risks for the coming year: Internet Scambusters #1,097
Internet scams are running at record levels and the new year will likely see them rise further and faster, as our annual review suggests this week.
But don't panic. To help you spot them, we've compiled a list of the most common online fraud tricks during the past year together with further dangers in 2024.
Most importantly, we've added another list of the 20 key actions you can take to dodge the fraudsters. It's definitely a copy-and-paste list you'll want to keep and share.
Let's get started…
How To Dodge Internet Scams in 2024
Social media websites and phony investments are now almost certainly the biggest sources of consumer fraud in the US. And that Internet scam trend looks like it's continuing throughout 2024.
Now, more than ever, it's crucial to be on your guard against fraudsters. As we've previously reported, crooks are increasingly harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI), enabling them to speed up their scams and make them look genuine.
As we head into 2024, we've looked back over the past year, researched what the experts say about the coming year, and compiled a list of 20 actions you can start taking now to stay safe.
Scam Trends in 2023
Although figures for the full year are not available yet, it looks like Americans will have forked out well over $10 billion to fraudsters this year (based on the 2022 figure of $10.2 billion reported by the Internet Crime Complaint Center - IC3).
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says the most frequently reported fraud loss in the first half of 2023 was from people who tried to buy something marketed on social media.
Add in non-internet tricks like doorstep and other imposter scams, fake charity collections, card skimming, and much more, and the scale of the scam landscape looks frightening.
Along with social media and investment frauds, the most frequent scams we've seen throughout the past 12 months include: impersonation, fake jobs, romance and online dating, ransomware (more likely targeting business rather than consumers), fake news and deep-fake videos, phony payday loans, crypto currency fraud, cash transfer tricks using apps like Venmo, student loan scams, and gift card tampering.
Malware and phishing tricks of all types soared too. For example, the third quarter of 2023 saw an increase of 179 percent in phishing attacks on the prior quarter, topping out at almost half a billion incidents, according to security specialists Vade. Meanwhile, malware incidents more than doubled in the same period, to a record 125 million.
Facebook and Microsoft are the top impersonated brands, Vade says. Others include Bank of America, Amazon, and Netflix.
Scam Outlook for 2024
We expect to see many of 2023's trends, especially fraudulent use of AI, to continue to rise during 2024. But there will also be some unfamiliar kids on the block. For example:
Two-factor authentication (2FA) theft: Using a second password or code to confirm you're who you say you are is still a great way of adding a level of security to your sign-ons. But crooks are now developing ways to trick you into handing over the info to them.
Quishing or Qrishing: Using so-called Quick Response (QR) squares of squiggles to steal confidential information. We have a full report on this scam coming up.
Rigged crypto trading: Lies and fake websites about profit potential and tips supposedly from friends will be used to lure more victims into the fast-growing but little understood (by most of us) cybercurrency marketplace.
Synthetic identity theft: This is a crime we've touched on before but experts say the use of AI to create a new ID based on stolen personal information will accelerate. These fake IDs will be used to set up "mule" accounts for money laundering.
Internet of Things (IoT) hacks: As nearly every appliance or even toys have an Internet connection, risks of crooks hacking your home network will increase.
In addition, a poll of experts, reported by the consumer credit monitoring organization FICO, suggests a rise in impersonation scams, use of call centers in deep fake romance con tricks, a shift to younger people in the age range of victims, and social media account takeovers. (See the full FICO blog post: Fraud Predictions 2024: Scams, Siloes and Upstream Polluters)
20 Quick Tips for Avoiding Scams in 2024
- Check that any person you're dealing with, even supposed friends and family, are who they say they are.
- Don't send money via untraceable means like cryptocurrency, gift cards, and cash wiring.
- Make sure you have strong internet security software and update it regularly, preferably using an auto-update option.
- Same goes for all programs and apps - make sure they're always up to date.
- Don't click on links and attachments in emails or text unless you've confirmed the sender is genuine and someone you regularly deal with.
- Don't share sensational news reports and videos without confirming their accuracy with other sources.
- Be highly skeptical about messages appearing to come from banks, online vendors, or other sources that say there's a problem with your account.
- Buy your stuff, especially branded items or collectibles, from known, reputable sellers.
- Don't invest your money without speaking to a reputable financial advisor.
- Beware of too-good-to-be-true "bargains," free gift offers, investments, and "you've won" notifications.
- Stay away from the dark web and "adult" sites. They're teeming with scams and downloadable malware that you often don't know is installing.
- Never sign on anywhere until you're sure you're on the correct site by carefully checking the URL address shown in your browser.
- Don't hand out 2FA codes to anyone - in messages or by phone. Legitimate organizations never ask you for these, only to key them in when you sign on.
- Don't lend your mobile device to anyone you don't know unless, in an emergency, you're watching what they do over their shoulder.
- Use the strongest possible privacy settings on social media sites and don't share sensitive personal information.
- Don't send money to people you meet online, especially dating sites or social media posts that lead to a supposed romance. You'll never see it again.
- Slow down. Never rush into making decisions that involve money. Scammers typically use threats and other urgency claims to force you to act fast.
- Hang up as soon as you recognize a scam call. Avoid speaking (especially to confirm your name) or hitting keys you're invited to press.
- If you get a message alerting you to a supposed account problem, independently go to the correct website and check your account there.
- Monitor all your financial accounts and credit records frequently to check for unusual activity and charges you don't recognize.
We're also seeing the launch of several anti-scam programs and apps, some backed by AI. It's early days but it's a space to watch. Again, we plan to report on these during 2024.
Follow this advice and stay informed about the latest con tricks by subscribing to Scambusters (if you don't already). We've been reporting for more than 20 years and clocked up more than a thousand weekly scam and fraud reports, which you can access for free on our website. And we'll continue to be here for you, your friends, and families in 2024. Stay safe!
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.