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What Are the Most Common Digital Fraud Scams?

Digital fraud, also known as cybercrime, refers to fraudulent activities that are carried out using digital technologies, such as computers, mobile devices and bots. Half (51%) of consumers in the US reported they were targeted with online, email, phone call or text message fraud over the last three months, an increase of six percentage points over Q1 2023, according to the US Consumer Pulse Q2 2023. Thwarting digital fraud scams is critical to modern fraud prevention.


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What are common digital fraud scams? 

There are many different types of digital fraud scams. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Phishing: An email or message that appears to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or a social media site, that tricks the recipient into providing sensitive information like passwords or credit card numbers.
  • Smishing: The fraudulent practice of sending text messages purporting to be from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information like passwords or credit card numbers.
  • Vishing: The fraudulent practice of making phone calls or leaving voice messages purporting to be from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as bank details and credit card numbers.
  • Malware: Malicious software designed to gain unauthorized access to a device or network, steal sensitive information or cause damage to the system.
  • Identity theft: The act of stealing personal information, such as a Social Security number or bank account information, to carry out fraudulent activities.
  • Online scams: Fraudulent schemes like online auctions or investment scams that trick victims into paying for goods or services they’ll never receive.
  • Business email compromise (BEC): A type of phishing scam that targets businesses by posing as a legitimate supplier or executive and requesting funds be transferred to a fraudulent account.
  • Account takeover: The act of gaining unauthorized access to a victim's online account, such as a social media or bank account, to steal sensitive information or carry out fraudulent activities.
  • Money mule: Money mules are people who, at someone else's direction, receive and move money obtained from victims of fraud. Some money mules know they’ve been recruited to assist criminal activity. Knowingly moving money for illegal activities can lead to serious consequences — including criminal charges.
  • Promotion abuse: A bad actor abuses a business's promotional campaigns to get discounts or bonuses, defrauding a business by using promo codes and discounts multiple times, or setting up multiple accounts under different names to get additional bonuses. They may also abuse coupons and return policies to obtain goods for free.
  • Gold farming: The practice of playing a multiplayer online game intensively to acquire in-game virtual currency or other valuable items used in the game —to then be sold to other players for real money.
  • Credit card fraud: A form of identity theft that involves the unauthorized use of another individual’s credit card for the purpose of purchasing goods, services or cash advances. Includes “friendly fraud” where a person’s family member uses their credit card without prior authorization.
  • Third-party seller scams: A bad actor using an ecommerce website or third-party marketplace to collect payment for merchandise they never intended to ship.
  • Shipping fraud: A type of account takeover where a fraudster accesses a consumer’s ecommerce account and changes the shipping address for a legitimate purchase with the intent to steal the merchandise.
  • SIM swap: Also known as SIM splitting, SIM jacking or SIM hijacking, is a technique used by fraudsters to get control of someone’s phone number. With a person’s phone number, hackers can take advantage of two-factor authentication to gain access to bank accounts, social media accounts and more.
  • Government benefit and service fraud: An individual or business entity that submits false information in the form of an application, claim or tax return to secure financial gain from a government program, including unemployment insurance, medical insurance, Social Security, student loans, business loans or grants, temporary relief programs and social welfare benefits.
  • Advance-fee scams: Scammers promise a large sum of money in exchange for an upfront fee. Often disguised as lottery wins, inheritances or investment opportunities, the target is told to pay a fee to release the funds but never receives the promised payout.
  • Romance scams: Scammers create fake profiles on dating platforms. Once a relationship is established, they concoct sob stories to solicit money.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks: Mobile phones can be compromised by fraudsters in many ways, including SIM swap or unauthorized reassignment to new device or network. In doing so, they can intercept a one-time passcode (OTP) authentication message to gain access to an account.

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