What Is A Social Engineering Scam? | Wealth Recovery Solicitors

What Is A Social Engineering Scam?

One of the most common themes across almost all the scams we see is the use of manipulation. Criminals will do all that they can to trick and convince victims into parting with their money or personal information and social engineering scams are no different. Human emotion is perhaps the easiest vulnerability to exploit and criminals are always looking for ways in which they can get past this natural defence and use it against their victims. 

We see very frequently that criminals will use emotions such as fear, sympathy and pride to manipulate victims and with social engineering scams, they will use these emotions as an in to gain access to your finances or personal information. With that in mind, we take a look at social engineering scams and attacks in our latest blog.

What Is A Social Engineering Scam?

Social engineering is a manipulation tactic, with criminals looking to exploit human error and emotion to access private information or log in to banking accounts. Also known as human hacking scams, social engineering scams work by luring and tricking victims into sharing their information, giving access to accounts or to spread malware. Social engineering attacks mostly happen online, but they can also occur via in-person interactions. They are a form of phishing scam, with the social engineering scammer looking to obtain information from the victim.

Scams such as social engineering attacks are focused on the way that people think and act. Criminals use social engineering scams to manipulate a victim’s behaviour and, once they know more about what motivates or interests their victims, then they will use this information to deceive and manipulate effectively. 

Social engineering scammers may also look to exploit a lack of knowledge demonstrated by their victims. Few people are aware of every cyber threat and some may not understand the value that personal data holds, so scammers will use this to their advantage where they can. 

Typically, social engineering scams have one of two goals:

  • Sabotage: This is where scammers will look to disrupt and cause harm or inconvenience for their victims.
  • Theft: Scammers will have the main goal of obtaining information such as access to accounts or sensitive information or finances. 

How Do Social Engineering Scams Work?

Social engineering scams and attacks operate largely on the reliance on communication between the scammer and the victim. Social engineering scammers will look to motivate the user into sharing or compromising their personal information and data, as opposed to other scams we see where there is a much more aggressive force used to obtain this information, such as theft or making threats. 

The cycle of social engineering scams follows 4 main steps, including:

  1. Preparation – the scammer will gather some information on you, or perhaps associate you with a certain group of people which they can then use to get some initial insights into you as a person.
  2. Infiltrate – scammers will establish a relationship with the victim or look to initiate an interaction, all built on trust. 
  3. Exploitation – Once trust has been established and the victim has displayed weaknesses, the scammer will use this to begin the attack and exploit the victim. 
  4. Extraction – When the scammer has gotten what they desired from the victim, they will then just leave without any further action or words being said. 

Social engineering scams can take place during a single exchange or over a series of months and conversations. However, most social engineering attacks will end once the desired action has been taken by the victim, such as sharing information or giving access to accounts. 

Common Social Engineering Scams and Attacks

With social engineering attacks, scammers will use methods such as phone calls, emails, messages and apps. The scammers will then impersonate trusted people or businesses with the intent of convincing the victim to share their details or information. 

Almost every type of cyber attack, scam or fraud will use social engineering in some form, so it is important to be aware of the common social engineering and attack scams currently in circulation. Social engineering scams tend to use different elements of many other scam types, overlapping into forming one main mode of scam. 

Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are where the scammer pretends to be a trusted person or business and attempts to trick the victim into exposing personal data about themselves. Phishing scams and attacks are usually targeted in two ways:

  • Spam Phishing – this is a widespread attack which is aimed at many different users, in the hope that the scammer will entrap at least a couple of victims. These attacks are impersonal and usually don’t have the same level of personal interference. 
  • Spear Phishing – this is where personal information is used to target specific individuals, with the aim of getting high-value targets that will lead to more returns for the scammer. 

Baiting Attacks

Baiting is a common method used in social engineering scams. This is where scammers will use the victim’s natural curiosity in an attempt to expose information in exchange for something such as a free product or exclusive discount. When information is shared, the scammer will then infect your devices or accounts with malware. 

Worm Attacks

Worm attacks are when the scammer tries to attract the victim’s attention to infected links or files, with the aim of getting them to click on them. This is typically done through message or email communication, enticing the victim to open attachments or click through seemingly innocent links, perhaps to rearrange a delivery or submit metre readings. Once information is submitted, the scammer will then “worm” their way into installing malware or using this information to gain access to financial platforms. 

How To Spot Social Engineering Scams

With social engineering scams, the key to reducing your risk of falling victim is self-awareness. Before you respond to any uninitiated form of contact, take a moment to think and analyse the situation. Social engineering scammers will expect you to take action before you stop to think of the risks and rely on this for them to be successful with their scam attempt. To help, we’ve put together some questions to consider if you suspect a social engineering scam:

  • Do you feel emotionally driven to respond? If a message or communication has made you feel curious, sympathetic or fearful, then it’s important to stop before taking any further action. If you feel emotionally driven to respond to a form of communication, then this should be a warning that it could be a social engineering attack. 
  • Is the message from a legitimate sender? Always be sure to inspect email addresses, phone numbers and social media accounts carefully if you get an unsolicited message or communication. You will be able to see if it is from a trusted sender if there are characters missing or made to closely replicate trusted details.
  • Does it sound too good to be true? As with almost every other type of online scam, if it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is. Always consider why someone may be offering you this deal, discount or opportunity – is there a hidden reason behind this? If so, then it will likely be a social engineering scam. 

What To Do If You Have The Victim Of A Social Engineering Scam

If you believe that you have fallen victim to a social engineering scam and have lost money as a result, then it is important to contact us as soon as possible. We have recovered over £25 million for our clients, with this number growing every day, so we can look to recover your lost funds. Get in touch with WRS today. 

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