Thomas Tusser, a 16th-century British farmer and writer, penned the words: “A fool and his money are soon parted.”
With the rapid innovation in technology, the everyday electronic accessories we access and carry, the ever-increasing number of places we store personal information and the growing sophistication of professional scammers, one doesn’t necessarily have to be a fool to fall foul of fraudsters.
Today’s scams typically attempt to spread viruses, obtain personal information, or to separate you from your money, and often by successfully using personal identification wrongfully acquired.
The internet is the overwhelming weapon of choice, with the traditional methods of telephone and post still strongly in use.
Falsely obtained personal information, known as identity theft, is of great value to scammers, and most people do not realise why. This information can be used to withdraw funds from bank accounts, obtain a loan, use present cards to charge items or open new credit cards and run up vast debts, as well as commit crimes in the victim’s name.
In addition to the economic loss suffered, the victim may also sustain reputation damage and face a significant task in correcting erroneous information as a result of the criminal activity.
Phishing is a criminal attempt, usually through the internet or telephone, to fraudulently acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, personal identification numbers and bank account and credit card numbers by impersonating a trustworthy person, organisation or site.
The attacker may masquerade as a valid financial institution, a government entity or e-commerce provider.
Generally a phishing scammer sends an unsolicited email, which portrays a sense of urgency and is meant to instill fear, requesting that the recipient visit a fraudulent website, usually through a hyperlink included in the mail.
The website generally looks and feels like an official site, and is designed to closely resemble the targeted company’s site. The visitor is often asked to log in to their account with their username and password and to provide other sensitive details that may be of use to the criminals.
In order to entice the recipient to click on the link the mail may warn that their account may be suspended if instructions aren’t followed, or that the institution has new security measures.
A “West African letter scam” is an unsolicited email portraying the sender as a high-ranking government official or close relative to a high-ranking government official, usually from a developing nation ruled by a deposed or recently deceased dictator.
The mail requests the recipient’s assistance in recovering millions of dollars, usually asking for bank account details so the funds can be transferred. The sender may offer a 20 per cent to 30 per cent commission and ask for an advance to be deposited in their account. Any monies sent are pocketed and bank details sent are used to attack the recipient’s account.
The advent of social media has led to some creative scams, the most interesting one being the family member or friend in trouble.
A hacker can obtain email addresses, friends list, telephone numbers and send messages requesting monies for a friend or family member who may have lost their wallets, phones, are hospitalised, or incapacitated and need money, which of course should be deposited to a certain account.
The guiding principles to avoid scams are these: Never provide any personal information over the internet, do not reply, click on links or open attachments from unknown senders and exercise good judgment and a healthy dose of scepticism.
These should be your minimum defence.
Anthony Galliano is chief executive of Cambodian Investment Management
Contact him at [email protected]