Tricks of the trade: What's in a fraudster's toolbox? What's in yours?

Although fraudsters keep changing tactics and using advancements in technology to steal personal information and money, there are still common tools and tactics they use. By exposing the fraudster's toolbox, you can learn how to identify fraud attempts and protect yourself and your loved ones.

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How does a fraudster use spoofing as a tool?
  • Spoofing is used to mislead and convince you that you're communicating with people you know, or legitimate companies and organizations
  • Fraudsters can change the caller-ID that is displayed on your phone, the sender address in an email, and often mimic legitimate websites, etc.
What's in your toolbox?
  • Hang up and call the official phone number of the company or agency in question
  • If the call is claiming to be someone you know, hang up and make the outgoing call to the number you have in your contact list
  • For emails, hover your mouse over the sender's email address or hit "reply" to see if the email address appears differently


How does a fraudster use urgency as a tool?
  • Fraudster's use urgency to pressure and trick you into sending money, personal information or clicking on malicious links
  • By using urgency, they are trying to give you less time to consider whether the request is suspicious
What's in your toolbox?
  • Time is on your side
  • You do not have to immediately send money, click a link or respond
  • Take five minutes to think about whether the call or message seems suspicious and use this time to try out the tools in your toolbox

Emotional manipulation

How does a fraudster use emotional manipulation as a tool?
What's in your toolbox?
  • Be suspicious of interactions online where someone you just met professes love or friendship to you, tells you a sob story or makes you feel unsafe
  • Don't feel isolated
  • Reach out to your friends or family and talk about the encounter with them to get their opinion
  • Check out the CAFC's A-Z index to browse different scams to see if your situation is on there


How does a fraudster use threats as a tool?
  • A fraudster may threaten arrest, physical harm, financial harm, release of sensitive information or pictures, and make threats against family members if you don't send money
  • They may also scare you to remain silent about the transaction to further isolate you
  • Threats are often used alongside urgency and emotional manipulation and used in cases of extortion
What's in your toolbox?
  • Hang up if you are being threatened, asked for money or personal information or if you're just unsure about the credibility of the call
  • Notify the police if you get threatened


How does a fraudster use pop-ups as a tool?
  • Pop-ups are boxes that pop up on your computer or device screen
  • They may say you've won a prize or that your computer is infected and then provide a toll-free phone number for you to call
  • Sometimes, they want you to click on them so they can install malicious software or lead you to a fraudulent site
What's in your toolbox?
  • Install anti-virus protection and pop-up blockers
  • Clear your cache and block cookies
  • Don't use public wi-fi or unsecure networks
  • Never call a phone number provided in a pop-up

Search engine optimization

How does a fraudster use search engine optimization as a tool?
  • Fraudsters can promote their websites to appear in the top results of an online search
  • They do this so that you are more likely to click on their fraudulent site
What's in your toolbox?
  • Don't assume the top results mean legitimacy or quality
  • Verify the link and contact information
  • Pay attention to spelling; fraudsters will often create websites that look official, but will change one letter or have a different domain name


How does a fraudster use links as tools?
  • By sending out hundreds of thousands of messages with malicious links, fraudsters are guaranteed to catch a victim who clicks on one
  • Malicious links can look suspicious or legitimate
  • They are often used in phishing scams
What's in your toolbox?
  • If you get a link sent to you in an email, text message or message on social networking sites, don't click it
  • Navigate to the website through your own search engine
  • Find the contact information in your search engine and contact the company directly to see if the message you got was legitimate


How does a fraudster use impersonation as a tool?
  • Fraudsters impersonate anyone you can think of to trick you into sending money or information
  • In cases of spear phishing, such as business email compromise, fraudsters study emails and interactions between employees so they can better impersonate someone
What's in your toolbox?
  • Never trust that a message is from who the sender says they are, especially when it comes with a request for sending something
  • Verify the person's identity by either searching for their information online, talking to them in person if you know them, or asking them questions only the real person would know
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