The five biggest Cyber dangers consumers face in 2020

Expect a lot more Authorised Push Payment, Investment, Windows 7 and SIM-swapping scams mixed in with a bit of Remote Access Fraud, warns KIS Finance

Posted 3 February 2020 by Gary Flood

Welsh-based commercial brokers KIS Finance has predicted will be the biggest Internet consumer scams and frauds for the year – and we can’t say it isn’t pretty scary stuff.

Drawing on data from trade body UK Finance, this is the bad news, which we’re sharing in the spirit of forewarned is forearmed:

Authorised Push Payment (APP) Scams

An authorised push payment scam is when a criminal tricks you into transferring money into an account controlled by them by making you believe they are a genuine organisation such as a bank, a utilities company or even the police. Authorised push payment scams, aka social engineering, are one of the largest growing threats to consumers, says the study; according to UK Finance, there were 57,549 reported cases of APP fraud in just the first half of 2019, a rise of 69% year on year. Total monetary losses of reported cases reached £207.5 million.

“Criminals are continuously developing and adapting their techniques in order to trick consumers into handing over personal details or transferring money,” warns the study. And although banks are starting to introduce various defences in order to try and prevent these types of scams from happening, there haven’t been any signs yet to show them slowing down, it cautions.

Investment Scams

Investment scams involve criminals convincing you to move money into a fictitious fund to pay for an investment. Promising very high returns and ensuring that your money is safe, the investment is entirely fake. You may be cold-called by the scammer, or they may entice you with an advert on social media.

Investment products offered are usually gold, diamonds, expensive wine, property and, more recently, cryptocurrencies. In the first half of 2019, losses that resulted from investment scams equalled £43.4 million, and this was an increase of 108% year on year. But with scammers adapting their techniques to lure in victims, with them now creating full websites, social media adverts and even sending out official looking paperwork, it looks like investment scams will be another big one for 2020, states the Talbot Green-based outfit.

Windows 7 Hacking

There is now a security concern for people still using Windows 7 as it entered into its ‘End of Life’ phase at the beginning of this year, KIS Finance reminds us.

This means that Windows will no longer be offering updates or security fixes for the operating system.  And “while it won’t be an overnight security risk and your PC will continue to run as normal, the worry is that eventually hackers will be able to find vulnerabilities in the system and exploit them in order to steal peoples’ personal data”, it says. 

Even worse: another concern is that consumers could still be vulnerable to this even if you updated your own PC from Windows 7 years ago. “Any company that you’ve trusted to give your data to, a doctor’s surgery would be one example, could also be putting your information at risk if they are still running their systems on Windows 7 and they succumb to a data breach,” it warns.

The advice is here is to upgrade to Windows 10 as soon as possible to make sure you’re not putting yourself at a higher risk of being defrauded.

SIM-swapping Scams

SIM-swapping fraud is when a criminal manages to convince your mobile network provider, by impersonating you over the phone, that you want to switch your phone number to another company. That means they are able to bypass security questions, as they would have already collected a lot of your personal data before attempting the scam – this is usually through companies who have had a data breach, or by hacking into your email and/or social media accounts.

Once they have successfully pulled off the switch, they will be able to benefit from everything that having your phone number provides including making and receiving phone calls and sending and receiving SMS messages. The criminal will also receive any two-factor authentication or one-time passcode texts meaning they will be able to log-in to your personal accounts and perform online banking transactions without you being notified. The problem is that number of SIM-swap scams has been growing rapidly over recent years with little protection in place against this type of fraud, states the guidance.

Remote Access Fraud

This type of fraud occurs when a fraudster cold calls you and explains that they are from a tech support company and that there is something wrong with your computer or internet connection.

It’s a tactic often targeted towards people who are likely to have less of an understanding of modern technology, for example, the elderly. The scammer will usually ask the victim to download a piece of software that allows them remote access of your computer (‘Team Viewer’ is often used as it’s a well-known and trusted programme). The danger is that once you have downloaded it and connected to the scammer, they can see and control your computer screen; they will then download (or tell you to download) a piece of software which they insist is needed to sort out the supposed problem. This piece of software is likely to spread viruses and malware onto your computer. 

Sobering stuff. Information on how to protect yourself from all these issues can be found in this article by KIS Finance on its website. Meanwhile, many of the same issues will be discussed at our upcoming Think Cybersecurity For Government 2020 conference (Friday, April 24th).

Don’t forget to register in good time to secure your place at the show in April, where many of these dangers will also be reviewed