Updated on
Jan, 17 2024
John Joannides
Written by
Kendall Coffey
Researched by

Social Engineering Scams

Criminals use social engineering scams to exploit people’s trust to obtain personal information or money to enable a crime. With the advancement in technology, social media is the most preferred channel. However, it’s not unusual that scammers contact you by telephone.

What Is Social Engineering?

Social engineering refers to the myriad of psychological methods that fraudsters use to establish trust with potential victims. The misleading practices are often carried out using information about the individuals, extracted from social media platforms and public data. These misleading strategies adopt various forms and typically commence with phishing emails intending to deceive recipients into disclosing personal details. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, IC3, recorded almost 324,000 phishing victims in 2021.

Additional social engineering tactics include voicemail phishing (vishing), text message phishing (smishing), and business email compromise (BEC). The latter involves the use of counterfeit messages seemingly sent from genuine businesses. As the senior threat fellow for threat research at Agari by HelpSystems, I have encountered an array of internet scams.

The scams are effective because they exploit our human instinct to trust. The majority of individuals are inherently predisposed to trust others, a trait manipulated by scammers who play on our vulnerabilities or allure us with irresistible deals that make us feel exceptional.

How is Social Engineering Scam Conducted?

Understanding the mechanism behind the different types of fraud is vital to warn unsuspecting people. While some scams target a wide audience, others target individuals.

  • Phishing, Vishing and SMShing

You can get fake emails, texts or telephone calls from people impersonating bank officials or e-commerce sites. They trick people into providing their personal and banking information.

  • Telecom Fraud

People impersonating friends, relatives or people in authority can contact victims. Then, they trick the victims into sending money to assist them.

  • Business Email Compromise

Criminal gangs are experts in hacking into companies’ email systems and even gaining access to their payment systems. They can deceive the employees into transferring money into their bank accounts.

  • Romance Scams

Some criminals prey on people in need of romantic relationships to obtain money from them. They get the victim’s contacts from social media or dating platforms.

  • Investment Fraud

You can fall victim to investing in fraudulent or worthless stocks with the promise of gaining hefty returns.

  • Sextortion

Both men and women fall victim to being tricked into sending explicit images and videos. They are then used to blackmail the victims.

Tips to Help Avoid Being a Victim of Social Engineering Fraud

Ending online communication or trusting no one isn’t a practical strategy. However, you can enjoy the convenience and connection of online life by observing a few tips.

  • Monitor your accounts

Criminals know that most people don’t check their account activities often. Therefore, ensure that you watch your accounts for any suspicious activities and close those that you no longer use.

  • Verify payment requests or personal information

Even when a payment request comes from a familiar person, ensure you call the person through another channel to confirm the information. Then, it will rule out that an impersonator doesn’t make the request.

  • Review privacy settings

Ensure that your online accounts where you input your personal information don’t allow unrestricted, public access. Most social media accounts have this setting as they are aware of the harm that fraud can cause.

  • Think before posting

A social media post shouldn’t include private and personal information that can compromise you before sharing any information about your loved ones; consider whether it’s necessary.

INTERPOL’S Operation First Light

INTERPOL conducts global anti-social engineering fraud operations under the codename First Light. With the help of local police forces, the operations are successful in the member countries.

From the operations, there are some interesting findings; that telecom fraud calls come from offshore call centers and the funds transferred overseas. There have been several crackdowns on criminal gangs and assets of millions of USD seized.

Final Thoughts

INTERPOL monitors the new ways criminal gangs trick victims into providing confidential information and money. They also ensure that they host regular expert meetings to address social engineering fraud.

John Joannides
John Joannides
Mr. John Joannides is an esteemed Cyprus-based lawyer with profound expertise in Interpol-related cases, financial regulations, and wealth protection strategies for ultra-high-net-worth individuals. Over his 15-year career, he has established himself as a leading advisor in multi-jurisdictional disputes and developing tailored solutions to complex cross-border legal situations.

Social engineering scams FAQ

What is a social engineering scam?
Social engineering scams refer to deceptive practices where criminals impersonate others to trick you into revealing confidential information or parting with your money voluntarily. These fraudsters endeavor to gain your trust, aiming to manipulate you into revealing sensitive data. This method is known as a "social engineering scam" as the scammers employ potent interpersonal skills targeted at altering the mindset of their victims. Employing untruths, they architect convincingly realistic scenarios designed to elicit fear or anticipation. Regardless of the emotion they evoke, their ultimate goal is to coax you into surrendering your personal details and financially deceive you.
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