By Osaji Obi / Social Catfish
ONLINE scams can originate from various parts of the world, and it’s challenging to pinpoint a specific geographical location as the sole source of most scams.
Scammers can operate from any country and target victims globally due to the nature of the internet and its borderless nature. However, certain regions have been known to have a higher concentration of online scam activities. These regions include:
- West Africa, particularly Nigeria: Nigeria has gained notoriety for being associated with various types of online scams, most notable romance scams.
- Eastern Europe, including Russia and Ukraine: This region has been associated with cybercriminal activities, including the development and distribution of malware, hacking, and financial frauds such as phishing and identity theft. Romania and Bulgaria have also been linked to various forms of online scams, including phishing, card skimming, and online auction fraud.
- Southeast Asia: Countries in Southeast Asia, such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, have seen an increase in online scams. Some of the common scams originating from this region include online romance scams, job scams, and lottery scams.
It’s important to note that these regions should not be seen as the exclusive sources of online scams.
Scammers can operate from anywhere in the world, and their tactics and techniques continue to evolve. It’s crucial for individuals to remain vigilant and practice online security measures regardless of the origin of the scams.
Why are America and other developed nations targeted the most?
- Economic Factors: Countries with strong economies and high levels of financial activity may attract scammers who seek to exploit potential victims for monetary gain. Scammers often target regions where people have disposable income and financial resources.
- Technological Advancements: Countries with advanced technological infrastructure and widespread internet access give scammers more opportunities to exploit and penetrate sophisticated online systems.
- Global Connectivity: Countries that have significant international connections, including trade and travel, are more susceptible to online scams. Scammers will have more opportunities to target individuals from different countries. The countries you mentioned are major players in global trade and have extensive connections with other nations, making them potential targets for scams.
- Popularity and Awareness: It’s also worth noting that the inclusion of specific countries on these lists could be influenced by the level of awareness and reporting of scams in those regions. Countries with higher levels of awareness and reporting mechanisms may have more documented cases of scams, leading to a perception that scams frequently originate from those locations.
The technology behind scams
Online scammers employ various technologies to commit their fraudulent activities. Here are some common technologies used in online scams:
- Phishing Tools and Kits: Phishing is a prevalent scamming technique where scammers impersonate legitimate organizations to deceive individuals into revealing sensitive information. Scammers use phishing toolkits and software to create convincing fake websites, emails, or messages that mimic reputable companies or services. These tools enable scammers to collect login credentials, financial details, or personal information from unsuspecting victims.
- Botnets: Botnets are networks of compromised computers infected with malware and controlled by scammers. They can be used to carry out a range of malicious activities, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, spamming, or spreading malware. Botnets allow scammers to automate their operations, generate massive volumes of scam messages, or control multiple accounts to execute coordinated scams.
- Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP): VoIP technology enables scammers to make phone calls over the internet instead of traditional telephone networks. They can use VoIP services to manipulate caller ID information, making it appear as if the call is coming from a different number or a legitimate organization. Scammers can utilize VoIP to conduct vishing (voice phishing) attacks, pretending to be representatives of banks, government agencies, or tech support to trick victims into revealing sensitive information.
- Malware and Ransomware: Scammers deploy various forms of malware, such as viruses, worms, or Trojans, to infect victims’ devices. Malware can be distributed through malicious email attachments, infected websites, or software downloads. Once the malware infects a device, scammers can gain unauthorized access, steal personal information, or deploy ransomware that encrypts victims’ data and demands a ransom for its release.
- Social Engineering Techniques: While not specific to technology, social engineering plays a significant role in online scams. Scammers use psychological manipulation and deception to exploit human vulnerabilities and persuade individuals to disclose sensitive information, make fraudulent transactions, or download malicious software. Social engineering techniques can include impersonation, creating a sense of urgency, building trust, or leveraging emotional appeals.
5 most common crypto scams
The unprecedented rise in investment scams in 2022 was largely due to crypto-investment scams, which stole a record $2.57 billion last year. Here are three current
- Fake ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings): Scammers create fraudulent ICOs to capitalise on the hype around new cryptocurrencies. To avoid fake ICOs, conduct thorough research on the project team, the technology, and the use case. Look for legitimate projects with transparent whitepapers and active communities.
- Fake Exchanges and Wallets: Scammers set up fake exchanges or wallet services to steal users’ funds. To avoid fake platforms, only use reputable and well-known exchanges and wallets. Verify the website’s URL and look for security measures like 2FA and cold storage for funds.
- Pump and Dump Schemes: Scammers artificially inflate the price of a low-cap cryptocurrency by spreading false information, then sell their holdings at the peak, causing a price crash. To avoid pump and dump schemes, be cautious of sudden price spikes based on unsubstantiated claims, and research before investing in lesser-known tokens.
- Investment Clubs or Telegram Groups: Scammers create fake investment clubs or Telegram groups, enticing users to join and invest. To avoid such scams, be wary of joining groups that promise exclusive investment opportunities or demand upfront payments. Do your own research and make informed investment decisions.
- Malware and Fake Apps: Scammers distribute malware or create fake cryptocurrency-related apps to steal private keys and sensitive information. To avoid these scams, only download apps from official app stores, use reputable antivirus software, and avoid clicking on suspicious links.
5 most common AI deep fake video scams
The use of AI deepfake videos and voice cloning in online scams is a growing concern. Scammers are leveraging these technologies to manipulate and deceive individuals for fraudulent purposes.
- Impersonation Scams: Scammers can use AI deepfake technology to create videos or audio recordings that mimic the voices and appearances of trusted individuals, such as family members, friends, or authority figures. They may impersonate someone close to the victim and request financial assistance or sensitive information, leading to financial loss or identity theft.
- CEO Fraud and Business Scams: AI deepfake videos or voice cloning can be used to impersonate high-ranking executives within organizations. Scammers can manipulate videos or audio recordings to mimic the CEO’s voice and appearance, then use these to deceive employees into making unauthorized financial transactions or sharing confidential company information.
- Romance Scams: In romance scams, scammers create fake personas and develop relationships with unsuspecting individuals online. AI deepfake videos or voice cloning can be employed to simulate video calls or voice conversations, making the scam appear more authentic and convincing. The scammers can further manipulate the multimedia content to deceive victims emotionally and financially.
- Face Swapping: Deepfake technology can be used to swap the faces of individuals in videos, making it appear as if someone else is speaking or acting. For example, there have been deepfake videos that replace the faces of celebrities with other famous individuals, creating the illusion that they are performing in a movie or TV show.
- Revenge Porn: Deepfake videos have been a cause for concern in the context of revenge porn, where someone’s face is superimposed onto explicit content without their consent. This has serious implications for privacy, consent, and the potential harm it can cause to individuals involved.
How to avoid AI deep fake and AI voice cloning scams
- Be cautious of unsolicited requests: If you receive a phone call or message from someone requesting personal information or financial transactions, be skeptical, especially if it seems out of the ordinary. Verify the identity of the person through other means before sharing sensitive information.
- Secure your personal information: Be mindful of the information you share online, especially on social media platforms. Limit the amount of personal information publicly available, as scammers can use it to create more convincing scams.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Enable 2FA for your online accounts whenever possible. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a secondary verification method, such as a unique code sent to your phone, in addition to your password.
- Stay informed about AI scams: Stay updated on the latest AI scam techniques and trends. Awareness can help you identify potential scams and avoid falling victim to them. Follow reliable news sources and organizations that specialize in cybersecurity for the latest information.
- Verify the source of information: If you come across a video or audio clip that seems suspicious or too good to be true, take the time to verify its authenticity. Cross-reference the information with trusted sources or contact the individual or organization directly to confirm its legitimacy.
- Be critical of media content: Develop a critical eye when consuming media content, especially online. Look for signs of manipulation, such as unnatural facial movements, mismatched audio and video, or inconsistencies in the content. Use reputable fact-checking sources to verify the accuracy of information.
- Report suspicious activity: If you encounter a suspected voice cloning or deep fake scam, report it to the relevant authorities, such as law enforcement agencies, online platforms, or cybersecurity organizations. By reporting scams, you can help prevent others from becoming victims.
This is part of Social Catfish annual study on the State of Internet Scams 2023. Read the complete report here.
Bamas Victoria is a multimedia journalist resident in Nigeria.
She is on Twitter with the handle @BamasVictoria and email : firstname.lastname@example.org