It can say with near certainty that, despite the best efforts of law enforcement and the software security industry, the growth of Internet usage will drive the number of scams ever higher. Though there will likely not be any significant change in the components of the Top 10 Scams for 2013 chart, there may be some repositioning and changes of emphasis.
Here's the 2014 forecast:
1. Phishing and ID theft. The bad news is that the gap between this and other scams will widen, with newly digitized medical databases as well as corporate systems being key hacking targets, alongside continuing growth of social networking scams.
2. Lottery and sweepstakes, probably no change here either. Seniors, often the most difficult to educate about this crime, are the prime target.
3. Malware - this crime will grow in 2014, moving up a place in the chart because of the increased use of smartphones and tablets. Security specialists suggest that half of all Android mobile devices have no security installed. This is such a threat it could even dislodge lotteries from the Number 2 slot.
4. Bogus Internet sites and fraudulent online sales - don't expect to see any drop-off in this crime. It has however moved down in the chart because of the growing malware category.
5. Hit-and-run scams. This category moves up a slot too because of the sudden surge seen towards the end of 2013 in bogus
IRS and utility company payment demands. Also, as
more people wise up to the risks of wiring cash, crooks have switched to
demanding their money on prepaid debit cards, giving themselves some extra
cash-gathering time before awareness of this new trick spreads. As always, this
category can also be affected by any major natural disaster, which drives up
6. Grandparent/imposter scams. It's the simplicity of this one that makes it such a big earner for the crooks. Although phone calls remain a popular technique, crooks are switching to spamming millions of people using email address lists harvested from circulating messages, like jokes and pass-it-on requests. Delete those address lists before you forward!
7. Economy-related scams. Expect to see a surge in reverse mortgage scams when older homeowners try to unlock some of the equity in their property as prices start to recover. Also, the trend towards self-employment, a big feature of the past few years, could spark a new round of work-from-home scams.
8. Advance fee scams. Scammers never seem to run out of ideas for new ways of fooling people into sending them "overpayment" refunds or paying upfront for dubious services. There's no reason to think they'll run out of crooked inspiration in 2014.
9. Investment scams. There seems to be little prospect of better interest rates for savers either, so they'll continue to hunt for higher returns -- especially in precious metals and currency speculation. You can also anticipate a surge in crowd-funding investment scams as crowd-funding becomes a more popular way to raise money for small businesses, causes and creative projects, especially with recent changes in equity crowd-funding laws. Towards the end of 2013, also noted was a new surge in "pump-and-dump" schemes, in which victims are fooled or pressured into buying worthless stock, pushing up prices and enabling the scammers to sell their holdings before the price falls again.
10. Dating and sweetheart scams. This is a contender for moving up a place in the charts but it stays here for now. The driver is the growth in dating site usage by older age groups, including those whose judgment may not be as sound as it used to be. Also seen is a growth in bogus dating sites as well as crooked "sweethearts."
Not a pretty picture is it? Not just this item but our entire Top 10 chart. As always, though, there are plenty of actions you can take to increase your security and reduce your vulnerability to those top scams -- starting with commonsense, skepticism and regular reading of Scambusters!
Based on article in scambusters.org, issue #575