I was talking to some colleagues the other day about cybersecurity and its relationship with modern everyday scams, like phone scams and similar things. In my opinion, it’s worth bundling these two topics together, and we found some interesting statistics that we’d like to share.
When I say scam, I’m getting into some pretty broad territory. I’m talking about efforts to trick a person into giving their time, energy, money, or something else of value to someone who is trying to earn it through trickery, fear, or emotional manipulation.
In other words, we’re not going to talk about computers very much in this blog post.
Here are just a few examples of some common scams:
There are countless more, but this just shows you the scope that we are dealing with.
Scammers use a wide variety of communication methods to trick you, including phone calls, text messages, mail, email, physical meetings, television ads, website ads, social media, or altering legitimate signage and publicly accessible information.
The biggest thing to look out for with any sort of scam is an inflated sense of urgency. The scammers want you to act without thinking, and the most abhorrent scams above, like grandparent scams and imposter scams often make victims believe that a loved one is in danger in order to bypass any common sense one might have.
You probably already know this, but it’s easy to drown it all out. How often does your phone ring and say “Scam Likely?” Most of us just sort of ignore it now. Huge portions of the population just simply don’t answer phone calls from people who aren’t in their contacts unless they are expecting something, because most personal phone calls are scams.
What about email? While we’ve come a long way with spam protection, how many emails do you instinctively scroll past because you simply know it’s unsolicited or toxic or some sort of scam? We’re just all conditioned to see these things every day… and then I found some statistics that blew my mind.
It’s estimated that older adults, particularly baby boomers and seniors in general, observe an average of at least one scam every hour of their lives.
That’s a wild number, and while we couldn’t find a report for younger people, those of us who work on computers for eight or nine hours a day or more likely have a similar experience.
Some other things about age and demographics were interesting—Gen Z (people born in the late 1990s through the early 2010s) have reported higher rates of victimization when it comes to online scams. Growing up with the technology doesn’t necessarily mean you are less prone to being victimized while using it.
It’s also believed that older generations, again, baby boomers and seniors, simply don’t always report it when they fall victim to a scam. When people are asked why, they usually say they wanted to take responsibility for their actions, or that they didn’t want to be shamed for it.
Let’s make this totally clear. If you look at the numbers, the sheer barrage of constant scams and attacks the average person just simply wades through in a day, it’s an incredible feat that we aren’t all going out of our minds.
Every single one of us has experiences in life where it’s the first time you have dealt with something, and you don’t know what to expect, and this puts you in a vulnerable state.
For instance, if you are a first time home buyer, and someone is mailing you some official-looking information about paying for access to your deed, it’s very possible that it could slip past your fraud-detecting radar. Is this a normal part of the process? Should I just do it? Should I contact my lawyer or my broker or at least ask other homeowners?
The problem is, the home-buying process is exhausting, and now you are in the middle of moving in and wrestling with your Internet service provider, your electric company, your former landlord, a moving company, all while your neighbors are telling you that the last owner always let them pick the apples from your new apple trees. Your fraud-detecting radar is shot and drained at this point, and it’s easier to fall for a simple scam.
The same goes for a grandparent scam—if you get a phone call from a loved-ones phone, and you hear their voice, stressed and tear-filled, pleading to help them, and then a lawyer gets on the phone and says your son/daughter/grandson/granddaughter was in an accident and are being kept in jail and you need to pay bail, your emotions will kick in. As a human being, you are doing the right thing by having an emotional response and reacting with compassion, but the people on the other end of the phone know this and are taking advantage of it.
Being a victim of a scam isn’t your fault. You should always report it, and tell your story so that others can learn from it. You aren’t dumb for being a victim. I’m not going to tell you that being more mindful of these things would have prevented it. If you were scammed, you already know this. You’ve learned your lesson, and like all of us, you’ll continue to be targeted and you’ll continue to avoid 99% of the scams that target you.
The best thing you can do is tell others about it. Turn your story into a warning for others.
Scam artists follow a very effective playbook that wouldn’t be so effective if everyone was aware of it. They are incredibly good at covering their tracks and making it nearly impossible to get caught, so the best way we can combat these threats is by making the public more aware so that everyone knows what to look for.
Yes, there are cybersecurity measures to help with the online stuff, and that’s incredibly important. I can tell you to make sure you are using strong, secure passwords, and using unique passwords everywhere, and using multi-factor authentication, and making sure your business is secure, etc. Those are critically important, but no cybersecurity protection is going to stop Pam in HR from getting a text message that looks like it comes from the CEO’s phone, asking her to buy a few thousand dollars worth of gift cards to mail out. The only thing that stops that is awareness.
That’s all. Those are just some thoughts we had. This is important stuff, and I can’t stress enough how commonplace it is. Stay vigilant, and don’t hesitate to simply call and ask us if you get something that raises your suspicions. We’re here to protect local businesses, and we hope that we can serve our community at the same time. If you’d like to talk about cybersecurity and how we can protect your business and its people, give us a call at (504) 840-9800 ext. 105.