In the modern world, fraudsters and con artists have developed sophisticated techniques to deprive honest people of their assets and wealth. As business transactions and banking has migrated to the online sphere, so too has the world of deceptive practices. Thus, it behooves any responsible investor or asset manager to learn more about common types of online fraud.
As a wealth management firm, Bastion Balance, based in Seoul, Korea, handles over $1 billion in assets. We have three generations of investors who have entrusted their wealth to our advisors’ hands, and we take that responsibility seriously. That’s why we are dedicated to exposing fraud in any form and bringing common cons into the public eye. With more awareness and education, hopefully the world of fraudsters will cease in the near future.
Types of Online Fraud
Internet fraud is a well-known and well documented form of con artistry. It comes in various forms that often involve hacking, virtual intrusion, or the proliferation of private information. Below are a few types of online cons that commonly affect both private individuals as well as businesses, corporations, and even financial institutions.
One of the most common ways that fraudsters take advantage of people and institutions is through accessing email accounts. Both business and private emails are susceptible to this. Essentially, this involves several steps.
- The criminal intrudes upon an existing email account or uses a false email account to send seemingly internal requests to businesses or online contacts.
- The criminal poses as a member of the group in question, whether that is a company or a person’s friend list.
- The criminal then requests payment for a service, product, item, or as a favor. The point here is that the victim is supposed to think that the criminal is part of the group and merely needs an allocation of funds.
- Usually, the criminal asks for money to be wired, whereupon the victim never hears from them again.
The term “phishing” denotes similar activity as an email con. That is, it starts with the criminal faking an email account. However, in this case, usually the goal is not a direct transfer of funds. Rather, the criminal poses as an outside (typically authoritative) organization, such as the government or a debt collection agency. They then demand personal, private information from the victim. This can include:
- credit card information
- personal data such as Social Security numbers
- passwords to important accounts
- bank card PINs
An unsuspecting victim, thinking they are being told to provide this information by an authority figure, gives up the information. The con artist then uses that information to transfer funds or assets into their possession.
A third form of online con is the use of ransomware. As the name may imply, ransomware is a form of cybercrime that involves malicious software. This is usually employed by criminals against corporations or organizations, sometimes even through phishing cons. The end result is that the ransomware encrypts, deletes, or transfers files and information critical to the target organization. Effectively “locked out” of their own data, the company’s executives then receive notice that the attacker will provide an encryption key, restore, or transfer back the files and information if and only if the target company pays a ransom. This has reportedly skyrocketed in recent years, given that so-called cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin have become popular. These forms of online currency are less traceable than cash or bank deposits, leading to their use in ransomware and phishing cons.
Avoiding Online Fraud
There are several steps you can take to avoid online fraud and cons. For starters, it is important to stay up to date with antivirus software and spam protection, as well as other forms of cybersecurity. This is a crucial way to avoid ransomware and other forms of harmful software like intentionally perpetrated viruses.
Additionally, screen all emails to ensure that they come from the correct Internet Protocol address, which identifies local computer networks. Look at the form of the email address as well, since phishers and email con artists often disguise their email addresses to look similar to the intended target’s. However, there are telltale signs, including the wrong .gov, .com, or .org end cap. If there is anything that seems strange about the email, hold off on providing information or funds until you know more.