Based on reports made to the police in the first half of 2022, proceeds gained from some of the most serious types of cyber-enabled fraud amount to around 13 million euros. However, this amount is the tip of the iceberg, as not all victims of fraud report the crime to the police. In cyber-enabled fraud, the main objective of fraudsters is to get money. They either receive money directly from victims who send it to them, or they find out victims' online banking codes so that they can empty the victims' accounts.
Police and other authorities provide topical information on different types of fraud, but criminals keep coming up with new and more credible scams. Therefore, it is important to realise that different types of fraud basically follow the same pattern: A fraudster contacts you and, by saying it is urgent, tries to make you give your personal data, download remote control software or click on a fraudulent link. By claiming it is urgent, criminals want you to make careless decisions, the ultimate goal being to cause you to suffer financial loss.
So should I suspect everyone and everything?
It is true that normal healthy suspiciousness protects you against fraud, so you should pay particular attention when it comes to links, contacts and entering banking passwords. Fraudsters usually contact victims by sending an e-mail or a text, by calling, or by approching them through online ads. So if you receive a text with a link, do not log into any service using that link but always use an official website or application for logging into a bank or postal services, for example.
As a rule, always be critical of those who ask you to send or give a piece of information, no matter how harmless it seems. Remember to exercise extreme caution if you are asked to log into a service with online banking codes. If criminals manage, for example, to hack into your friend's Facebook profile, they can send you a message on Facebook and ask for your phone number or send a link to you. In that case it might be difficult to realise that it is a scam, because the message is sent by someone 'familiar' to you.
You should also remember that the sender of a message can be easily falsified, so do not trust a text or an email merely because, for example, the name of your own bank appears as the sender. If you suspect that you are being scammed, you can always ask someone else's, like your family's, opinion. There are many organisations providing help in the use of digital services and the improvement of digital skills, and they will surely help you if you are not certain whether you are being scammed or not.
New project to help police tackle fraud
The police are carrying out a project financed by the Ministry of the Interior to prevent cyber-enabled fraud against elderly people. The project seeks to increase the awareness of elderly people, in particular, of cyber-enabled fraud and how to protect against it. The aim is that everyone knows how to identify a fraud attempt and, thus, prevent fraud. Anyone can become a victim of crime, but the project targets elderly and disadvantaged people, in particular, because when it comes to them, criminal proceeds and financial losses are bigger. They can also be disadvantaged because of a lack of computer skills.
Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that Finnish people lose large sums of money to cyber-enabled fraud every year, people should not stop using the internet or smart devices because of a potential threat of being scammed. By using digital services, we gain experience and learn how to act securely and to better identify fraud attempts.
Cooperation is crucial to tackle fraud, as the police cannot solve all issues related to it alone. Banks and telecommunications operators have a significant role in preventing fraud. In fact, cooperation between the authorities and telecommunications operators has brought helpdesk fraud almost to an end. Helpdesk fraud refers to scams where fraudsters pretending to be technical support staff of Microsoft, among other companies, telephone victims and persuade them, for example, to download a remote control software to their device or to use their online banking codes for identification.
What if the damage is already done?
If a scam occurs, swift action is essential. If you realise that you clicked on a malicious link or gave your data to a fraudster by accident, do not panic. Contact your bank immediately, as they might still be able to stop the transaction. Save the phone number of your bank's card blocking service in your phone so you can find it easily when you need it. Tell the bank first what happened and then report the matter to the police. It is important to report fraud to the police so that they can tackle the phenomenon. You may also report attempted fraud to the police. Furthermore, you can prevent identity thefts from being committed with your personal data by buying a voluntary credit ban from the companies offering it: Suomen Asiakastieto Oy and Bisnode Finland Oy.
Finally, if you become a victim of fraud, do not be ashamed. Fraudsters are often professionals, and you are probably not the only victim. Anyone can become a victim of fraud. Victim Support Finland provides support if you want to talk about what happened.
Support for victims of fraud:
- Report a crime online at https://asiointi.poliisi.fi/yksityis/rikos
- Contact Victim Support Finland for advice and emotional support at https://www.riku.fi/
The project on preventing fraud against elderly people is financed by the Ministry of the Interior and carried out in cooperation between the Ministry, the National Bureau of Investigation and the National Police Board. The writer of this blog post coordinates the project at the National Bureau of Investigation.
This blog post is published as part of the European Cybersecurity Month.