It’s that time of the year again when shoppers get ready to take advantage of the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. It’s also the time of the year when cyber criminals seek to take advantage of those bargain hunters.
Alarming Statistics from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau
A recent report by the UK’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), managed by the City of London Police showed that British people lost £10.6 million to online scammers between November 2022 and January 2023. On average, each victim lost £639. Globally the total amount lost to scams over the period topped $100 million.
Social Media: A Hotbed for Scams
The data reveals that over half of the reports (51%) mentioned a social media account, indicating that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are increasingly becoming the venues for shopping and auction fraud. The convenience and ubiquity of social media shopping options make them attractive but also perilously vulnerable to fraudulent activities. Social engineering attacks are also launched via these platforms with scammers often gleaning the personal information of their targets from them.
The Emerging Threat of AI in Cyber Scams
One big change this year is the rise of generative AI tools like ChatGpt. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has raised concerns that fraudsters are increasingly leveraging this technology to enhance their deceptive tactics. This year, with AI rarely being far from mainstream discourse, the NCSC warns that the malicious use of AI will intensify, particularly in crafting more convincing scam emails, fake adverts, and bogus websites.
The integration of AI into cyber scams represents a significant escalation in the sophistication of these threats. AI's ability to generate realistic and professional-looking content means that even the most vigilant and cyber-savvy individuals can be easily duped. These AI-generated scams can be produced at an unprecedented scale, making it a challenge to distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent communications.
For businesses, this means that the risk of data breaches and financial fraud is not only heightened but also more difficult to detect and prevent. The convincing nature of AI-generated content can lead to increased instances of phishing attacks, where employees might inadvertently divulge sensitive information or grant access to secure systems.
Consumers, on the other hand, face the risk of encountering highly realistic fake online storefronts and advertisements, created by AI to mimic legitimate Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. These fake platforms can be almost indistinguishable from authentic ones, leading to increased chances of financial loss and identity theft.
Who's Most at Risk?
Interestingly, according to the NCSC data the age group most susceptible to these scams is 25–34 year olds, closely followed by those aged 35-44 and 18-24. This demographic, often considered tech-savvy, is at the forefront of digital shopping trends, making them prime targets for sophisticated online scams.
How to Protect Yourself
Be Wary of Social Media Deals: Given the prevalence of scams on social media, it's essential to verify the legitimacy of deals and sellers on these platforms.
Double-Check URLs and Websites: Before making a purchase, ensure the website is legitimate and secure. Look for HTTPS in the web address and be alert for any misspellings or oddities in the URL.
Use Secure Payment Methods: Opt for credit cards or payment services like PayPal for better protection against fraud.
Update Your Security Software: Keep your antivirus software and devices updated to protect against the latest threats.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi for Transactions: Public Wi-Fi networks are less secure, making them risky for online shopping.
Regularly Monitor Your Financial Statements: Keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions.
The NFIB report is a stark reminder of the financial and emotional toll of online scams. By staying informed and vigilant, you can enjoy the benefits of digital shopping without falling victim to these modern-day hazards. Remember, in the world of online shopping, caution is the best companion.
If you are worried about cyber threats or need help in improving your organisation’s visibility please get in touch to find out how you can protect your organisation.