Social Engineering: Scams that play on your Human Emotion

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Picture 12

That is the best way to Think Like A Spy and be alert of Social Engineers that are trying to manipulate you.  With such a gloomy economy and many people without work, offers for fast cash and huge discounts become more and more attractive. Most of these Identity Theft cases use the technique of Social Engineering.

Social Engineering is the act of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information by playing on their human emotions. The term typically applies to deception for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or computer system access; in most cases the attacker never comes face-to-face with the victim. These days most thieves can nab your identity over the phone, mail, email, and through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

While some schemes scam you into giving out social security numbers, bank account numbers or other confidential identity pieces, others are as simple as a pickpocket distracting you emotionally while another thief steals your wallet or purse. Here are what a few of the most widely used savvy cyber attacks look like:

  • Phony charitable phishing scams, many of which are designed to look as if they come from real charities. Always enter in the exact URL for the Charity that you wish to donate to rather than clicking on a link.
  • Urgent email or text notices from your bank. They tell you to click on a link to access your account to fix an important, time sensitive problem. Don’t click on a link via email. Always type in the exact URL of your your bank or call the number on the back of your card. Nothing is that urgent.
  • Nigerian Email Scam. This scam has been around for decades in different versions and states that a wealthy foreigner needs help moving millions of dollars from his homeland and promises a hefty percentage for helping him. This scheme is designed to part you with your money. Once you send a check or bank account numbers you won’t see a dime in return and most victims report losing thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars to this scam.
  • Notices via email, phone, or mail that announce that You Have Won the Lottery! The message usually claims that you will be paid a large sum of money after you pay them a small amount now. Although this is tempting, just say no. Legitimate lotteries don’t ask you pay anything after you have already won.
  • Facebook or Twitter distress messages from your friends. If you see a friend asking for money and you are considering helping them out, you should ALWAYS call that friend first. Make sure that their account hasn’t been hacked by a thief.
  • Malware-ridden E-cards. It is sad, but true that it is no longer safe to open E-cards. Many contain malware to attack your desktop and gain access to confidential information. Make sure you have updated virus software protection to notify you of viruses that come through emails or the Internet.
  • Make fast cash now! AKA: Make thousands a day working from home! All you have to do is send $50.00 for the starter kit. More often than not people will send their $50.00 and never receive anything in return. This scam has become more popular with our nations high unemployment rate.

These are only a few of the many variations of Identity Theft through Social Engineering. Since social engineering often plays on emotions, you should be careful not to get duped during a tragedy or commemorative event. This is when people are in a mood of giving and their emotions run high.  So remember to stop and think about the possible consequences of an offer that may just be too good to be true. Never be afraid to say no!

John Sileo became America’s leading Identity Theft Speaker & Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC.  To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076