Growing social fraud: data that causes concern

A report highlights how social fraud is becoming more common and more advanced. Threats on smartphones are also growing.

Online scams by cybercriminals using social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or Telegram, increased in 2018 by 43% over the previous twelve months. This is what emerges from the “Current State of Cybercrime Report” of RSA Security, a company of the Dell group active in the field of cybersecurity.

According to RSA, in fact, web criminals increasingly use social networks for two main purposes: to carry out real scams and to exchange data obtained from the scams themselves. Some intrinsic characteristics of the social networks, then, would be very useful to fraudsters and would put them practically safe from most police investigations making their business at cost, and risk, almost zero. Another aspect highlighted by the RSA report, again in relation to 2018, is the increase in scams carried out through mobile apps.

How hackers use social media for online scams

Thanks to social networks it is possible, with virtually no cost, to create false online identities that are very credible for users of the various social networks. Creating a Facebook fake profile from scratch that looks a lot like a legitimate profile is extremely simple and the result is often excellent. These profiles can then be used to try to cheat real social users, steal their personal information and sensitive data or extort money directly from them. Some social networks, such as Telegram, also involve the use of bots, which can become a very useful tool for attempting mass scams. Once user data, such as credit card numbers or email addresses, has been collected, this information can be exchanged or sold between hackers within social networks that, paradoxically, use complex encryption systems to protect the privacy of their users. As a result, a “transaction” between fake profiles managed by hackers who are exchanging stolen data is virtually impossible for law enforcement agencies to decipher.

The growing role of mobile apps

The second trend identified by RSA Security when analyzing data on online fraud in 2018 is the still growing role of mobile technology. In particular, apps that allow money transfers or financial transactions are targeted and used by hackers who, for example, use them to send money to their accomplices. Here, too, transactions are encrypted by encryption algorithms, which shields them from the watchful eye of investigators.

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