A Pessimistic Future: 2021 Global Scam Predictions
After nearly 4 Years of excellent progress a number of influences come together to create a perfect storm for worldwide scamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime - is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. & cybercrimeCybercrime Cybercrime is a crime related to technology, computers, and the Internet. Typical cybercrime are performed by a computer against a computer, or by a hacker using software to attack computers or networks.
SCARS Predictions for 2021
In the light of developments over 2020, and particularly resulting from the elections and political changes that came in 2020 – here are the SCARS Predictions for 2021
We must look at the events of the last year to see how these trends developed.
First, we had the explosion of the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in a near-total lockdown of the entire world. It resulted in unique circumstances to make all of us more vulnerable and dependent on the Internet:
- Isolation and emotional suffering grew at never-before-seen rates causing everything from social-absence anxiety to a large increase in other mental healthMental health Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". According to WHO, mental health includes "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others". From the perspectives of positive psychology or of holism, mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life and to create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how one defines "mental health".-related disorders and conditions.
- The world moved to a “work from home” model without adequate, or in many cases any – safeguards, reasonable cybersecurity protections.
- A significant gap in cyber awareness that was previously provided by employers now had to be known and adapted to by consumers on their own.
- Inadequate concern over general online safety issues evolved that was more pervasive than in the past. Many people acted as though they were immune to all concerns.
- A general doomsday outlook pervaded many aspects of society, with substantial fear for the future evidenced throughout the world.
- At the same time, massive numbers of people engaged in unsafe activities – both in real life and online without regard to consequences.
- Working on shared WiFi or home networks, and on shared devices, compromised by family members with no regard for safety caused a surge in ransomwareRansomware Ransomware is a type of malware from cryptovirology that threatens to publish the victim's personal data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. While some simple ransomware may lock the system so that it is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse, more advanced malware uses a technique called cryptoviral extortion. It encrypts the victim's files, making them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them. In a properly implemented cryptoviral extortion attack, recovering the files without the decryption key is an intractable problem – and difficult to trace digital currencies such as paysafecard or Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that are used for the ransoms, making tracing and prosecuting the perpetrators difficult. Ransomware attacks are typically carried out using a Trojan virus disguised as a legitimate file that the user is tricked into downloading or opening when it arrives as an email attachment. However, one high-profile example, the WannaCry worm, traveled automatically between computers without user interaction. and other malwareMalware Short for "malicious software," this term means computer viruses and other types of programs that cybercriminals use to disrupt or access your computer, typically with the aim of gathering sensitive files and accounts. attacks.
- Massive data breaches and cyber attacks occurred demonstrating the overall failure of national cybersecurity models.
- The average person feels weaker and less able to affect or control their personal safety.
These become the environment that was exploited by all types of cybercriminals – from malware providers, to hackers, to social engineeringSocial Engineering Social engineering is the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. It is used as a type of confidence trick for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or system access, it differs from a traditional "con" in that it is often one of many steps in a more complex fraud scheme. It has also been defined as "any act that influences a person to take any action that may or may not be in their best interests." fraudsters.
2020 WAS THE YEAR OF THE COVID SCAMS
As a result we saw a perfect-storm of cybercriminality – but with some interesting shifts.
What We Observed
During 2020 we observed increases in most areas of cybercrime, but with some notable exceptions.
- A total supernova of online fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim. focused on the COVID-19 disease in every form imaginable – from: masks, to treatments, to cleanliness and sanitation, to avoidance education, to lethality and impact, to government responses. The news media played a major role in under-reporting these issues (as they do in most areas of online safety)
- Political insanity in the U.S., Canada, and Europe not only had an impact on fighting the virusVirus A computer program that can replicate itself and spread from computer to computer or file to file. It comes to life only when you take a specific action, such as running a particular program. but on planning for internet safety long term. Needed legal frameworks were either buried in legislative battles or ignored completely, this included any application of responsibility onto the Big Tech companies who completely ran amok!
- Relationship scams (those that are managed one to one) increased by more than 100% in one year in 2020 – we attribute this to the increased isolation, loneliness, and vulnerabilities of individuals – regardless of their marital status. The total number of romance scam victims is now approaching 30,000,000 (30 million). Romance scams increased by 50%.
- A large surge in the number of fake or false profiles on social media and every application platform – many (most?) are impersonationImpersonation An impersonator is someone who imitates or copies the behavior or actions of another. There are many reasons for impersonating someone, such as: part of a criminal act such as identity theft, online impersonation scam, or other fraud. This is usually where the criminal is trying to assume the identity of another, in order to commit fraud, such as accessing confidential information or to gain property not belonging to them. Also known as social engineering and impostors. or fake identities – we attribute this to the scammers need to scale up individual relationship scamming.
- Business Email Compromise (CEO Scams) decreased by possibly more than 70% – we attribute this to the rapid and radical change in corporate governance; meaning that every dollar was closely supervised since most small and medium businesses teetered on the edge of extinction during the year.
- There was a massive increase in Money MuleMoney Mule A money mule sometimes called a "smurfer," is a person who transfers money acquired illegally (e.g., stolen) in person, through a courier service, or electronically, on behalf of others (usually criminals that they are knowingly or unknowingly affiliated). Typically, the mule is paid for services with a small part of the money transferred - but not always. Mules may or may not be aware that they are performing these actions. Money mules are often dupes recruited online for what they think is legitimate employment, not aware that the money they are transferring is the product of crime. The money is transferred from the mule's account to the scam operator, typically in another country. Similar techniques are used to transfer illegal merchandise. Mules can be prosecuted for numerous crimes. activity – possibly as much as 400% – we attribute this to the desperation of so many people around the world looking for income opportunities or willingness to help others. While most did not know they were involved in money launderingMoney laundering Money laundering is the illegal process of concealing the origins of money obtained illegally by passing it through a complex sequence of banking transfers or commercial transactions. Money laundering can be done through various mediums, leveraging a variety of payment vehicles, people and institutions. or were accessories to cyber-related or other crimes, a larger percentage than ever were aware. The FBIFBI FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States and its principal federal law enforcement agency. Operating under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Justice, the FBI is also a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community and reports to both the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence. A leading U.S. counter-terrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigative organization, the FBI has jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crimes, including financial fraud. and EuropolEuropol The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, better known under the name Europol, formerly the European Police Office and Europol Drugs Unit, is the law enforcement agency of the European Union (EU) formed in 1998 to handle criminal intelligence and combat serious international organized crime and terrorism through cooperation between competent authorities of EU member states. The Agency has no executive powers, and its officials are not entitled to arrest suspects or act without prior approval from authorities in the member states. Based in The Hague, it comprised 1,065 staff as of 2016. WEBSITE LINK both found triple-digit increases in money mulesMoney mules Money mules are a type of money laundering where a person transfers illicit funds through a medium (such as a bank account) to obfuscate where the money came from. There are different types of money mules including witting, unwitting, and complicit. identified, though only Europe kept arrest levels high. The U.S. appears to be delaying its enforcement activities and initiated a new notification process.
- The whole world finally woke up to the dangers and magnitude of cybercrime, with China continuing as the leader in the arrest of cybercriminals.
- While it was lower than the record number of arrests in 2019 (111,000 worldwide), 2020 gave us over 67,000 arrests of cybercriminals, with the Nigerian EFCCEFCC Economic and Financial Crimes Commission The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is a Nigerian law enforcement agency that investigates financial crimes such as advance fee fraud (419 fraud), scams, and money laundering. The EFCC was established in 2003, partially in response to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), which named Nigeria as one of 23 countries non-cooperative in the international community's efforts to fight money laundering. The agency has its head office in Abuja, Nigeria. arresting approximately 1,400 (a record for them) and all of this during the pandemic.
- Very disturbing “Defund the Police” trends in North America and Europe which became codified by the U.S. election in November 2020. Even the election itself appears (per reports) to have been a substantial fraud undertaking. Cities like New York cut USD$1 billion from their police budgets. Cities like Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles are going in the same direction. People across the country are resigning in never before seen numbers. We anticipate this will have a very large impact on law enforcement in the U.S. and the perception of race in the enforcement of African scammers.
The Predictions for 2021
While we have seen significant changes for the worse in 2020, we believe these are not one-year events and that these are trends that will continue through the year. Here is what we see for 2021:
2021 Society & Government
- There will be no consolidation of cybercrime enforcement services into a single entity in the United States as was discussed over the last couple of years. The enforcement and defense of cyberspace, businesses, and consumers will remain fragmented in nearly 2 dozen agencies in the U.S.
- No increase in cybercrime enforcement by FBI – their increased focus will be on domestic terror threats (real or imagined) and civil rights crimes (real or imagined). The FBI will focus on hate and discrimination crimes. Business cybercrime will remain a major focus, but less on individual victims.
- A reduction of consumer support by cybersecurity police units in the United States while other countries increase support. While law enforcement made great strides in recent years, we expect a reduction in help for consumers, shifting the available resources to provide more help for the business sector.
- A reduction in Crime Victim benefits and support- we have already seen this in the spending bill passed in December 2020. We expect to see further cuts in later 2021 as funding shifts to gender and race identity priorities. We expect to see similar shifts in Canada and Europe.
2021 Global Views
- Japan & South Korea get serious about cybercrime as losses pass USD$100 billion for the two countries alone. Their local police forces being to develop stronger cybercrime units and make cybercrime control a national priority.
- Countries begin to explore the China “great firewall” model for limiting internet access and cybercriminality & exploitation.
- Ghana begins to lose its tourism trade due to no support for cybercrime law enforcement – Boycott Ghana campaigns become common. SCARS will have a sit down with the Ghana government to explore these issues.
- State actors, such as North Korea and Iran redouble their efforts to use scamming as a major source of income due to new U.S. appeasement approaches.
- We see Israel to become a locked country online enacting the world’s strongest national cybersecurity models.
- Africans scamming Africans will see triple-digit growth as income and access to the Internet grow in Africa.
2021 Online Crime
- Continued aggressive expansion of cybercrime worldwide – mainly organized cartels – in many areas, 2020 was the year they scaled rapidly to address a changing landscape and their adaptations will provide more yield in the year to come.
- India will grow to become the major center of socially engineered cybercrime in 2020. They have developed and perfected their business models and “hide-in-plain-sight” approaches.
- Revenue from relationship scams worldwide passes USD$750,000,000,000 ($750 billion), and overall cybercriminality will pass USD$3.5 trillion dollars for the first time (some analysts claim it will pass $5 trillion.)
- Nigerian scammers will expand into the U.S. and Europe, and Latin America in a big way to take advantage of the racial divides that are being promoted politically. We expect over 1,000 domestic Nigerian-style scammers to be operating in the U.S. by the end of 2021.
- We expect an explosion in online crime in Latin America in 2021. Major criminalCriminal A criminal is any person who through a decision or act engages in a crime. This can be complicated, as many people break laws unknowingly, however, in our context, it is a person who makes a decision to engage in unlawful acts or to place themselves with others who do this. A criminal always has the ability to decide not to break the law, or if they initially engage in crime to stop doing it, but instead continues. cartels in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina see the need to become dominant in this space, and the grossly inadequate response of their governments opens this door wide.
2021 Law Enforcement
- Continued expansion of worldwide arrests but Nigeria is projected to pass the United States on the number of Arrests of cybercriminals (except for MULES) – Asia continues to be the world leader in arrests overall. We expect to see a 55% increase in year over year arrests.
- Money mule criminalization and penalties increase. The significant expansion of muleMule A money mule sometimes called a "smurfer," is a person who transfers money acquired illegally (e.g., stolen) in person, through a courier service, or electronically, on behalf of others (usually criminals that they are knowingly or unknowingly affiliated). Typically, the mule is paid for services with a small part of the money transferred - but not always. Mules may or may not be aware that they are performing these actions. Money mules are often dupes recruited online for what they think is legitimate employment, not aware that the money they are transferring is the product of crime. The money is transferred from the mule's account to the scam operator, typically in another country. Similar techniques are used to transfer illegal merchandise. Mules can be prosecuted for numerous crimes. recruiting – of both aware and unaware mules – will continue its current trend, and this will also result in ever greater intolerance by law enforcement. Approximately 1,500 mules were arrested in North America and Europe in 2019, and about 400 in the U.S. and 800 in Europe in 2020. We expect this trend to increase as police show less tolerance to mules. Of course, almost all mules that come forward are forgiven from criminal charges, the ones that will be prosecuted are those that do not assist the police.
- Reduction in police services in the United States will be caused by the increased call for Defunding the police in major metropolitan areas. Police support for nonviolent crime will reduce substantially due to budget cuts – resulting in reductions of all victims’ services (as we have already seen in New York, Portland, and Seattle).
- Nigeria continues to increase enforcement of cybercrime & fraud, passing 5,000 arrests in 2021 – though convictions will continue to run at about 50% of arrests.
- Fortunately, as the U.S. loses focus, Europe (especially Europol) and Interpol ramp up. The U.K. is also renewed in its focus on protection due to the separation from Europe.
- We expect reporting of cybercrime to grow to nearly 10% in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Reporting in Africa grows substantially due to African nonprofits bringing a focus onto the problem of local cybercrimesCybercrimes Cybercrime is a crime related to technology, computers, and the Internet. Typical cybercrime are performed by a computer against a computer, or by a hacker using software to attack computers or networks..
2021 Online Crime Victims
- The number of romance scam victims passes 30,000,000 and continues at 1 million new victims per year.
- We see deaths from suicide to continue to be between 15 to 20 a day worldwide. We believe that 25-30% of this is because victims found the wrong kind of support.
- We do not expect to see any changes in the breakdown of victim types. At least 30% will be lost in vigilantism and a similar number to various forms of denialDenial Denial is a refusal or unwillingness to accept something or to accept reality. Refusal to admit the truth or reality of something, refusal to acknowledge something unpleasant; And as a term of Psychology: denial is a defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality..
- We continue to expect that more than 60% will not recover from these crimes psychologically because of denial or angerAnger Anger, also known as wrath or rage, is an intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable and non-cooperative response to a perceived provocation, trigger, hurt or threat. About one-third of scam victims become trapped in anger for extended periods of time following a scam. A person experiencing anger will often experience physical effects, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Some view anger as an emotion that triggers a part of the fight or flight response. Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively, and physiologically. Anger can have many physical and mental consequences. While most of those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them", psychologists point out that an angry person can very well be mistaken because anger causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability. control issues, and will continue to gravitate to the amateur anti-scam hater groups on social media further compounding their traumaTrauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS..
- Approximately 28-33% of victims will be able to successfully recover from their scam experience with minimal emotional damage.
- We expect to see a continuation of online crime victim demographics: 40% under age 30; 40% over age 50 – significant growth in ages 12 to 22.
2021 Anti-Scam Activities
- Occupational licensing requirements are expected to pass in at least one U.S. State – requiring that Victims’ Assistance entities (including anti-scam groups) have minimum occupational standards for operation (as are required for Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, etc.). This will transform amateur and dangerous anti-scam groups into illegal activities unless they step up to the new requirements.
- SCARS will launch an independent scam victim support certification course program for independent support groupsSupport Groups In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers. in anticipation of State legal requirements.
- SCARS will develop a directory of attorneys and law firms that understand online crimes and seek to help victims.
2021 Privacy & Big Tech
- Social media openness will increase scamming across the globe, while reporting of specific ethic fraudsters will become view more as racial attacks. Thus reporting will become a danger for those reporting on social media.
- Facebook will continue to report billions of deleted fake profiles – though most are deleted at sign-up. It will become increasingly difficult to have fake, impersonation, and criminal profiles removed – since most reporting is by one race against another. This racial sensitizing will make it very difficult to free social media of the criminals.
- Constant reporting of scammers will begin to be viewed as hate by social media companies. More and more people reporting scammers will feel penalties for their racial hate.
- All forms of online censorship will increase. Law and order will become a taboo topic.
- Most “exposing” of scammers in public (public pages or profiles) will end by the end of the year.
- TikTok will emerge as a major scamming platform, as well as Sony PS5 and all online gaming.
2021 Legal Environment
- The new CASE Act – a new copyright act in the United States passed as a part of the December spending bill. This will have strange effects on scamming and impersonation. It will enable easier action against scammers using stolen photos based upon copyright theft claims, but at the same time will begin to prohibit or at least increase civil liability for “exposing scammers” by posting the stolen photos which in most cases is also an infringement of copyright. Amateurs will continue their ignorance of this issue until lawsuits start to proliferate FROM SCAMMERS and IMPERSONATION VICTIMS alike. In 2018 SCARS began isolating “exposure” photos in ways to anticipate this trend.
- The CASE Act will resurrect the billion-dollar lawsuits against the dating industry.
- Civil litigation against scam victims we become common in 2021 – against victims that committed fraud to obtain money for scammers or who became mules. While there were only a few scattered cases in 2019 and almost none in 2020 due to the pandemic, we expect to see hundreds at the very least.
This is not an optimistic forecast for the coming year.
In 2016 we saw an immensely positive change with the election of a law and order president in the United States – this had a global impact on the administration’s focus on cybercrime. However, the opposition party now expected to be in the White House has never had its eye on this ball. We expect shifts away from cybercrime enforcement (especially from Africa) to politically expedient race, gender, and victim identity issues.
It was good while it lasted.
Elections have consequences, and when the United States catches a cold the rest of the world shivers. But this is what half of the American people voted for and will now have to live with.
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