In most cases, a positive association is made with regards to the technological advancements that the 21st century has introduced. Everything seems to happen more efficiently, with less effort – international business proceedings have multiplied drastically, window shopping now happens on digital screens, bank transactions are processed via mobile devices and communication across the globe takes place instantaneously.
Although the aforementioned conveniences have made our fast paced lives easier to manage, the opportunities for criminals to use the information that is available at their fingertips have also boomed. Fraudsters, in particular, have turned the online space into a playground where they are afforded the opportunity to access a wealth of information. It is an unfortunate reality that the negative side to technological advancements must also be addressed – however, in doing so, solutions can be considered and created.
According to a UK article, Measuring the Cost of Cybercrime, written by Anderson et al., there are numerous ways in which cybercriminals go about their unlawful activities online. The startling list of online fraud schemes includes “online payment fraud” which involves the purchase of goods via the internet using a card pin obtained fraudulently; “online banking fraud” which similarly involves the use of a card number and pin to log into a person’s bank account; and “in-person payment card fraud” which is possible once fraudsters have forged cards using ATM skimmer devices.
Fraudsters may make use of software ploys such as “fake antiviruses” that pop up on the victim’s desktop as a warning to run the alleged antivirus. Once victims do so, the virus disables existing antivirus software and a pop up demanding payment appears which will only be deactivated once payment has been made.
Very often, and perhaps most commonly, criminals will employ email scams such as “419 scams”, also known as “advanced fee fraud” which targets victims via email and requests a small amount of money to be paid in order for the victim to supposedly receive a large sum of money; “fake escrow scams” which lead the victim to believe that he/she has won a prize such as a car, but must first make a payment via the fake escrow website; and “stranded traveller scams” whereby fraudsters hack into a person’s mail list and contact the person’s friends or family, posing as that person, to state that he/she is faced with a dilemma whilst abroad and needs money sent to an account in order to get home.¹
Emphasising the reality of such occurrences, reports recently emerged regarding the world’s largest clampdown on online fraud and cybercrime to date. The project, known as “Operation Card Shop” was initiated in June 2010 by the FBI in the United States and in June 2012 the arrest of 24 cybercriminals involved in the theft of bank and credit card details, and ID information was carried out. The crime, termed “carding”, whereby criminals obtain credit card information and use it to exploit account holders and purchase under the victim’s online identity, is a relevant threat regardless of one’s location in the world as the availability of personal information on the internet has the power to dissolve national boarders, so to speak, as the world becomes a smaller place. The perpetrators who were involved with carding schemes were based in numerous countries in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia.²
The pertinence of online crimes that the international community faces are further highlighted as other reports have recently made reference to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the United States that now requires businesses to report to investors should they become victims of corporate cybercrime. Many companies are reluctant to do so for fear that their reputation will be tarnished amongst other reasons; however, the point remains that this crime needs to be addressed in order for it to be resolved. In June 2012, LinkedIn complied with the SEC rule and made a public announcement that it had been subject to online crime as 6.5 million of its users’ passwords were obtained by hackers. In such instances, the global implications of cybercrimes are evident. This news served as a reminder that the world is often united in the potential negative consequences that the crimes linked to technological advances have. Preventative measures therefore need to be established.³
Because crimes of this nature can have a global ripple effect, it may feel daunting or impossible to stop it; however, by implementing sound security measures on a smaller scale – be it as one entity or as an individual, the opportunities for fraudsters to commit online crime will be diminished.
Compuscan, Africa’s first home-grown credit bureau, and its sister company, Compuscan Academy, realise the big effects small efforts can have by addressing fraud threats and solutions. Compuscan’s insight into the credit industry and its understanding of the importance of secure online systems in the business and financial spheres has resulted in its acknowledgement of the need for protection against online fraud and the consequences of cybercrime. Compuscan has developed solutions to combat fraud and to give the necessary assurance to proceed with business confidently and with peace of mind. An essential component of fraud protection lies in an awareness of the threats that exist – with the SAFPS database information available to members via Compuscan’s Credit Check, fraud alerts are made available, thus acting as a preventative measure when taking on new clients in the credit industry. To further enhance knowledge surrounding fraud threats, Compuscan Academy offers the opportunity to do so through its Fraud Prevention and Monitoring course.
Thus, along with the new conveniences granted by technology, it has been made evident that we are also confronted with new problems. Nonetheless, to shift the focus back to the positive aspect of technological developments in conclusion, it must also be noted that new solutions are available and continue to be made available along with the evolution of technology in this modern day world. More information regarding these solutions can be obtained by contacting Compuscan on +27 21 888 6000 or 0861 51 41 31, at[email protected] or at www.compuscan.co.za; or by contacting Compuscan Academy at [email protected] or www.compuscanacademy.co.za.