“You have a new connection!” chimes the alert from your favorite social media app. Unfortunately for you, your new “friend” stole $2,400 just last week from one of his other victims. Can you afford to hand over that much hard-earned cash to a stranger on the internet?

Social engineering scams are on the rise with students. Scammers may take the form of a new potential love interest on a dating app or a friend in an online game. It’s increasingly easy to create a fake profile online (or take over someone’s account) and trick “friends” into sending money. Don’t be their next victim. Check out these common scams and the red flags to watch out for. 

Business Email Compromise (BEC) Scam – $1,866,642,107

BEC phishing scams take on many different forms, but they all have the same goal—trick their victims into sending money. Many methods rely on either taking over an employee’s email account or creating a fake invoice from a vendor. The email looks legitimate and makes a financial request that seems believable. So, the target may release company funds (or personal funds believing they will be reimbursed by the company) to the scam artist.

Some common scenarios are receiving a fake invoice from a vendor, a caller ID spoofing of executive leadership, a request to purchase gift card rewards for the company, and someone impersonating an assistant over email asking to transfer funds for a project. 

 What can you do? 

– Double-check the email address and make sure it’s spelled correctly before sending money. 
– Discuss business purchases in person rather than over an email or phone call. 
– Don’t click on any random links that you are unfamiliar with.

The Romance Scam – $600,249,821

The second scam with the largest amount of money lost was the romance scam inducing a loss worth $600,249,821 with 23,751 victims. That’s a loss of $25,272 per victim on average. Scammers catfish their victims using emails, dating apps, social media platforms, and many other social websites. They use either completely madeup profiles or create fake profiles using images and information from other “real” users. They then form a relationship with their victim to gain their trust. The nature of the relationship could be romantic or simply friendship. Once the victim trusts the romance scammer, they come up with reasons that they need money. They may ask for a small loan at first, which they promptly repay, to test the victim’s willingness to help and reinforce they can be trusted.

What can you do?

NEVER send money to someone you only know online.
Be suspicious of anyone asking you to purchase gift cards. 
If the person claims to be working out of the country, so they need you to transfer money for them DO NOT DO IT.  

The Investment Scam – $336,469,000 

Investment scams involve getting victims to send money with the promise of a larger payout. In 2020, these scams claimed 8,788 victims ($38,287 was lost per victim on average). They may guarantee the victim will make double or triple their money back if they transfer funds via Cash App, Venmo, their bank account, or another money transfer app. Other scams involve charging a fee to gain access to money. They may claim to be a law firm responsible for dispersing an inheritance or worse a fraud recovery group that charges a fee to recover your stolen funds.   

Scammers often join social networking groups to gain new victims. They target a specific demographic such as students in the same major, the elderly, a religious organization, or a variety of ethnic groups. They then present an investment opportunity that everyone in the group should take part in.  

What can you do?

Don’t send your personal or financial information to anyone you don’t know in person or that seems suspicious.
Don’t believe in any investment opportunity being advertised on social media, through a message, or through a phone call
Don’t use mobile payment appswire transfers, or gift cards to invest in anything.
Watch out for anyone that adds you or messages you randomly on social media profiles.
Report any scam that you have been a part of to the FTC.

Join us from 11 am to 1 pm. October 4 in Milner Library. Learn how to avoid socially engineered attacks by taking the “Secure the Bird – Cybersecurity Challenge” and be entered into our grand prize raffle for a new MacBook Air at the end of the month!

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