According to a recent study provided by Symantec, the company dedicated to develop internet security and ant- spyware products that brought Norton to the world, a person connected to the internet is approached 14 times per second by cyber criminals, in the U.S. only, and is a potential victim of at least of one scam. During 2011, 430 million Americans were victims of cybercrime; most of these internet scams came from sources injecting viruses to computers or laptops that had low or none virus or anti-spam software and were accessing the internet unprotected.
Most of these attacks came from links to corruptive sites or emails often disguised as important news coverage, faked videos of the death of Osama Bin Laden or Fidel Castro’s, a special offer brought by Apple after Steve Jobs passing, or stars giving away iPads where people would be redirected to a corrupted website. Short links or URLs are often the passage for a virus.
Millions of accounts with bank information were taken from hackers hitting Sony’s Play Station, Epsilon (a marketing firm) and even the Central Intelligence Agency was targeted.
International private investigators warn that business scams and romance scams continue to see steady growth on an annual basis. Most of the contacts initiated by cyber criminals are initiated on sites like Facebook, Match.com, Linkedin and other major social networking, job networking or online dating sites. Internet criminals pretend to be looking for love, a business partner, investment or other profitable venture, when they in fact, are looking for your money. Many criminals take victims by surprise with their convincing stories, offers and supporting documentation. Many victims ask how someone could be a criminal, when he or she has never asked for money. Meanwhile, the victim’s identity is being stolen, or information is being gathered later to be used for extortion. There are countless ways to steal a person’s money, and criminals are finding new ways.
Romance scams can be especially difficult to bear. Victims often waste months getting to know someone they think is special and genuine, only later to have their bank account drained and left heartbroken and disgusted. Criminals don’t think about their victims, but simply move on to the next in a new crime wave that so far, authorities are unable to keep under control or prevent.
International background checks and even surveillance operations have discovered that criminals in most cases are men pretending to be women, in countries like the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine, U.K., Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Thailand, Hong Kong, Colombia, and many others. Scammers use convincing but fake ID’s to convince their victims. In business scams, a professional website can be used, combined with a nice Linkedin page and various online directories to appear legitimate. A few professional business proposals thrown in, and some convincing phone calls, and many CEO’s have made the mistake to trust their new international contact or investor. The results can be devastating, and can even lead to bankruptcy or worse. Verifying is essential.
Scammers often target victims in developed countries like Canada, U.K., U.K., Australia, Japan and Germany. English speakers are at the biggest risk for fraud online. Investigations in the Ukraine have uncovered gangs of cybercriminals who look nothing like the beautiful girls in the pictures you get. Philippines investigators also recently uncovered a network of criminals operating in Southeast Asia that looked more like professional organized crime rather than a simple romance scam. Fake stock and investment scams are common and growing in China, and some fraudulent companies can be listed on the NYSE. Experts in Beijing say due diligence is more important than ever.
What allows the criminal operations to continue and keep growing, increasing the risk online? Investigators say that criminals have the advantage because they operate from developing countries where law enforcement is inefficient and corrupt, and lacks the resources to go after criminal groups. Also, jurisdiction remains a problem for prosecutors who try to put the crooks in jail. A London or Hong Kong or New York based FBI agent may not have much success when trying to convince local police in Malaysia to assist an investigation, for example. Consumers and business people need to stay vigilant.
All the best,
© 2011 S. Birch