By Tamas Kadar, Co-Founder and CEO of SEON, the fraud fighters
The costs of cybercrime exceeded $1 trillion in 2020, up 50% from 2018. Ordinary people around the world were moving more aspects of their life online, with a number of people using eCommerce for the first time and employees working at home meaning that criminals had a greater pool of potential victims.
Some of their tactics were obvious, and even a little crude, but others are so obscure that you’ll wonder how anybody is making money from them. Therefore, it is important to keep up to date with everything the digital world’s less scrupulous citizens are doing to part you or your company from your money.
It is for this reason, we felt it important to produce a dictionary of online fraud and cybersecurity terms that will give you a good overview of where the industry is at the moment, but in this article, we’ll be digging down into some of the most prominent forms of fraud online today.
Deepfakes, Vishing, and impersonation
A few years ago, the concept of creating a perfect digital mask of another person for the purposes of fraud or blackmail was science fiction. Today, near-perfect deepfakes like this video of ‘Tom Cruise’ are possible using professional lookalikes and Hollywood-level effects technology, but similar technology is trickling down to fraudsters.
Imagine a system administrator at a large company getting a call from their CEO asking for their password to be reset, or somebody working in accounts payable getting a call from a procurement manager telling them that the bank details on a payment were wrong and need to be changed. For decades they would have complied without question since they recognize the voice at the other end of the line, but today they need to be wary of being ‘Vished’, or ‘voice phished’. In the coming years, companies are going to have to reckon with a business environment in which you can’t necessarily believe your eyes or ears, leading to a raft of new security procedures.
Identity theft is still an issue
This one you will definitely have heard of, but you may not know how pervasive the problem is: reports of identity theft doubled from 2019 to 2020 according to the FTC. You may also be surprised at how varied the tactics of identity thieves are, which can range from stealing mail from rich neighborhoods to harvesting data through public wi-fi networks.
COVID was a major factor in the rise of identity theft. The pandemic created the perfect storm from increased internet use, including many people using eCommerce for the first time, and an increased number of people either becoming unemployed or having their income significantly reduced. This led to a huge rise in identity theft for the purposes of applying to unemployment benefits multiple times. The two rounds of pandemic stimulus and multiple state and federal relief programs have also incentivized fraudsters to impersonate individuals and businesses.
Fake accounts, bots, and more
Sophisticated deepfake attacks targeting major companies represents the upper echelons of the fraud world, but there are tens of thousands of low-level fraudsters running penny ante scams, usually not on a professional basis but at a high enough rate that they are a major concern for online retailers and businesses everywhere.
‘Account Farming’, for example, is the practice of creating multiple authentic-looking accounts on social media sites then selling them to unscrupulous companies for the purpose of posting fake reviews adding followers to a new account or harassment. As most social media sites take fake accounts very seriously, it is difficult and time-consuming to create new accounts making the practice at best a supplemental income for amateur fraudsters, but enough do it to make it a serious problem.
As with the increased prevalence of fraud, the general economic downturn caused by COVID-19 has caused a lot of otherwise law-abiding people to turn to low-level fraud to get by. For example, ‘wardrobing’ is where someone buys a product, uses it, and returns it later. This common type of fraud is estimated to cost around $18.4 billion dollars annually.
What’s more, some people allow criminals to use their identities or online accounts in criminal enterprises in exchange for a (usually very small) share of the profits. Others act as ‘money mules’, transferring money from one account to another, usually as part of a long chain. Again, the individual rewards are low, but with enough people doing it, this type of fraud can be very difficult to stop.
Fighting fraud with AI
The sheer scale and sophistication of the fraud and cybercrime space are difficult to imagine, and although the cybersecurity industry is growing rapidly, with an estimated compound growth rate of 10% per year, it is still difficult to keep up with threats manually.
Artificial intelligence (AI) could be the solution. There are intelligent tools and systems on the market today that can gather information about eCommerce users from all parts of their digital footprint, connecting their email or phone records to publicly available data from social media and other open sources, creating a complete digital picture. If that picture raises too many red flags – if it is exhibiting unusual behavior that could indicate identity theft or has very new social media accounts with little activity – then this can be actioned, manually or automatically.
AI may be the only means of keeping up with the pace of change in the world of fraud and cybersecurity, so one of the only encouraging aspects of the current boom in digital crime is how seriously companies are taking it and how quickly industries around the world will be able to supplement their own fraud prevention activity with digital tools. To learn more, or to download our Cybersecurity Dictionary, visit: https://seon.io/resources/ebook/fraud-dictionary-by-seon/
About the author
Tamas Kadar is the Founder and CEO of SEON. He started the company with his Co-Founder when they were still students in university and built it from scratch. A graduate of the elite Corvinus University, he studied Deep Info Comms where he saw first-hand how fraudsters and hackers looked to get around security measures. He has been featured in Forbes’ “Hottest Young Startups in Europe” and is a regular startup pitch winner. He’s a true tech nerd’s product visionary for creating a fraud-free world.
SEON helps online businesses of all sizes fight back against fraud. It was built out of necessity and aims to remove the barriers to fraud prevention that many companies face, with rapid integration times, rolling monthly contracts, and a one-size-fits-all platform that is easy to operate and is accessible 24/7. Its technology draws on data from across the internet to establish customers’ digital footprints to wean out false accounts and prevent fraudulent transactions from taking place and all of SEON’s tools work in the back-end to remove any friction associated with fraud prevention. To learn more about the company, visit: https://seon.io/