Phone Scams are Costing Americans Millions
Phone scams are getting very expensive. A new report claims that victims were swindled out of hundreds of millions of dollars in 2020. Some phone scammers are using simple social engineering tactics while others are using sophisticated strategies to target individual organizations. Their frequency and success are increasing at an alarming rate.
I’m pretty sure I’ll be arrested after I finish this article. I got a call from some government agency and there are several warrants for my arrest because I didn’t pay my taxes. They said I could pay up and make it all go away, but I think I ‘ll take my chances. The taxes I owe are probably for that luxury vacation I won. I didn’t even know I was in the running for that one, but the caller last week reassured me I was.
The worst and most common phone scams aren’t calls out of the blue about how you’ve been “selected” for a special prize. They start with an email or a specially crafted webpage. These webpages are the worst, and they are very difficult to prevent. They usually have an audible warning about how your computer is infected with a virus and you need to call. All attempts to close the window or navigate away are blocked. It is very similar to a virus and scares a lot of people into calling the number. Calling starts the tech support scam. After gaining remote access to your computer the cyber criminals will try many tactics to scam you or, more accurately, your older relatives, out of their life savings. Roughly 65% of all victims are over the age of sixty.
Phone Scams: An Origin Story
This is not the origin story of a quirky superhero named “Phones Scams”. I want to discuss where the vast majority of these calls come from. According to IC3’s 2020 Internet Crime Report and many other sources, India is the epicenter for these cyber criminals. It’s very unfortunate. I’ve worked with many honest and hard-working contractors from the region. These scammers are creating a lot of mistrust and ruining their nation’s reputation. India’s government is cracking down and they’ve successfully shut down many criminal operations in 2020. For some, the foreign accents or poorly worded emails are a red flag, but soon these giveaways may dissappear.
The Future is, Unfortunately, Now
Jason and I are great pals. He calls me at least once a day to see how I’m doing. Jason is a full-fledged marketing robot that is eerily convincing. It took me a moment the first time he called. This sophisticated software does everything; capable of thousands of calls an hour. It’s incredibly efficient and cost effective. Earlier systems used bots to dial numbers and serve the answered calls to human representatives. Now Jason and his friends (Greg and Samantha) can dial your number and get you scheduled for an appointment all without human intervention. These appear to be, though unethical, legitimate marketing campaigns. It’s only a matter of time before these realistic robots become readily available to phone scammers.
*Pro Tip: At the beginning of these calls there is a recognizable “bloop” noise. When I hear this I just hang up.
To save these legitimate marketers more time, innovative companies have developed software to generate the entire email for them. These emails easily pass as human generated messages. There are even A.I.s that can write entire blog articles and respond to live chats as with impressive human-like results. We will see phone scammers adopting these technologies more regularly to increase the authenticity of their scams.
“Knowing is approximately 50% of the battle.”
If you want to help protect your friends and loved ones, I urge you to share the link below. It’s a great article by the FTC that could help protect them against these disgusting criminals.
While most of the victims are elderly individuals, businesses are in no way safe from phone scams. In many cases these can be much worst leading to events like ransomware installation and data breaches. IL Group’s cyber security division is currently providing a limited number of businesses with a free trial of their very affordable Awareness Training.
Designed to focus on each client’s individual needs, the training sessions identify and raise awareness on baseline and trending threats, as well as educate on mitigation strategies. IL Group’s continuing education philosophy is that security training needs to be distributed to employees in easy to understand, engaging, monthly, short (5 to 10 minutes) sessions. It’s best way to keep information security top of mind and prevent your organization from becoming a victim.