The world is evolving. Remember a time when to make a phone call meant having to find the closest pay phone or going home to a landline? How about a time when there was no such thing as a television? Nowadays it is possible to make a phone call whilst in the middle of the Atlantic by using a satellite phone, and owning a television is not even enough anymore, nowadays one can have their very own personal cinema! Things change and unfortunately sometimes that change is not always in everyone’s best interest.
The Classic Robbery
The word ’heist’ means to rob or to perform a hold up; in today’s world thanks to the media and movie industry when someone hears the word heist, they picture evil-doers armed to the teeth holding people hostage inside a bank. Or maybe people racing against time trying to crack the safe within a specific time limit in order to escape before the cops show up. But in a world where you can pay at a store on the other side of the world without leaving your house, is this still a correct picture? Of course such things still happen but only for a fraction of the yearly occurring thefts.
In 2007 there were an estimated 2.179 million burglaries in the US as reported by the FBI. This resulted in a stolen amount of approximately $4.3 billion.
In 2007 there were also 445,125 robberies resulting in a loss of $588 million again as reported by the FBI and again only for the United States.
The New Digital Age Robbery
According to Gartner in 2007, 3.6 million people in the US lost money to phishing attacks; that’s more people than all burglaries and robberies combined with a resulting loss of $3.2 billion. And this is only one attack vector out of many possibilities in the digital age.
Phishing is the act of convincing people to give you confidential information such as the login and password details to their bank account. This attack can take many forms but the most common means is by email. In most cases, the victim receives an email that appears to be from the victim’s bank asking that client to update his credentials. The email would then link to the attacker’s website which would be a copy of the bank website. When the victim puts in his personal details, instead of being sent to the bank for authentication these would be sent to the attacker who will then record them.
Nigerian Scams (419ers)
419ers, or as they are more commonly known, Nigerian scams, are a form of Advance Fee Fraud. These kinds of frauds are very insidious. The victim is lured in with the promise of tons of money. These generally come from someone in Nigeria, or from other countries under an oppressive regime, who wants to take his money out of the country and invest it in the US or in Europe. They pretend to need the victim’s help to transfer the money and they are ready to split the money/profit with them. If the victim falls for the trap, the scammers will devise excuse after excuse to get the victim to send them money. It may start with small requests such as $500 to create bank accounts, but there are documented cases where people were asked to pay millions of dollars for a special chemical used to clean black ink from dollar bills which were painted over so that they could be smuggled out of the country.
These Advanced Fee Scams are really dangerous. If a person believes that they are legit, he will also believe that at the end of this he will become a millionaire, and be driven by greed which can be a very dangerous force. In most cases the victim ends up becoming the villain although in their mind it would be only temporary. There are documented cases where victims steal from relatives, friends and even clients to gather the money necessary to satisfy the “costs” to get hold of money which never really existed in the first place, most likely justifying themselves by thinking they will pay everything back once they have the money.
In the next part I will delve deeper in the subject and discuss other modern types of theft such as skimming, identity theft, receiving fake checks as well as ransomware.