Be aware of online fraudsters!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Technology has made it easy to reach the masses through group emailing techniques. Fraudsters leverage technology not only to mask identity and create fake emails and websites but also to reach a large number of people all over the world at a very low cost.

But the success of scammers cannot be attributed to technology alone. Scams work because of our several emotional vulnerabilities and behavioral limitations. Technology has only made it easier for the scammers to play on our emotions and speedup our responses in urgency.

Research shows that online scams are a large industry and notoriously difficult to catch. Shame of being duped by a fraudster is so immense for the victim that very few report the crime. Even if they do, most trails go unearthed as scammers use fake identities or simply vanish without trace.

Often, it is the savvy and the smart who make for an easy target for the scammers. The play is on their ability to engage assuming that the risk is small, they understand technology enough to not fall for any trick and there may actually be benefits.

Fraudsters play on these emotions and some more. They exploit our ability to make irrational decisions under the influence of emotions. For example, an email from an ‘authority’, such as the government, the taxman, the banker or the police, will invoke fear. A warning that access to your bank account is being denied or that your debit card has been blocked will grab your attention and trigger an action arising out of fear.

Names, designations and signatures of authority are traps that will make you open the email and click the link therein. From there, the slide downhill begins.

Also, fraud calls are meant to create a sense of higher benefit for lower cost. When you get a phone call declaring you have won a prize or that you are the chosen one, you are taken in by the praise. You let your guard down and continue to engage with the caller. But this can prompt the caller to make calls again from a position of familiarity and hence reduce your ability to say no or make an excuse or remain uninterested in the conversation. The trap thus deepens.

The most frequently used trick is to persuade us to act immediately. For instance, you get a call that is offering a hard-to-resist vacation deal. The bargaining instinct in you will invoke the fear of losing out a cheap deal if you don’t act fast. The scammer will capitalise on your willingness to take a good bargain home.

There have been ample cases of romance scams as well. So let’s be aware of this ugly menace which is increasing by the day!

‘‘Things gained through unjust fraud are never secure.’’