Crimes go Digital

Crimes go Digital


Almost all of us are now involved in the digital space to a certain extent. Unfortunately, the Internet does not only bring benefits. After one wrong click, you can easily become a victim of fraud.

The other day, I received an e-mail, saying ‘in honor of the anniversary of our company you were chosen the winner of a large cash prize.’ I immediately thought that it was sent by crooks. Then I got tempted to receive 10,550 euros that were offered to be immediately transferred to a bank card. In response, I sent the number of my old credit card with only 1,000 rubles ($13.2) on it, come hell or high water. A new email from this firm said, “We are transferring the amount indicated.” The message made me happy. A couple of minutes later, I got another message, “The bank could not credit the currency to your account. It is required to convert euros into rubles. To convert and credit your card with 896,750 rubles ($11,838) you need to send 560 rubles ($7.39).” There was no point in playing the giveaway any further.

I told this story to my close friend Alexei Lobarev, Chairman of the Association of Trade Unions of Law Enforcement Agencies, Veterans, and Power Structures of the Russian Federation.

“They took pity on you,” he said. “They wanted to con out money of you. You have successfully walked through a minefield. If you want to learn about the tricks of the crooks, come to the discussion on cyber-security, which is organized by the public councilors of the Head of the Presnya district.”

The “round table” agenda aroused unprecedented interest among specialists. Representatives of law-enforcement agencies, deputies, lawyers, psychologists from some Moscow districts, Krasnodar, Lipetsk, Irkutsk, St.Petersburg, and some international organizations took part in the event, which seemed to be of district level. There is nothing surprising about that. The statistics of offenses in the sector of telephone and cyber-fraud is shocking, makes the public sound the alarm on all websites and social networks, look for ways and methods to fight the scammers of a new generation.

According to the Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the damage from telephone robberies in Russia amounted to 45 billion rubles ($594.05) only during the first 11 months of 2021. Every seventh Russian citizen was attacked by fraudsters. Moreover, half of all victims voluntarily gave their secret data, passwords, and codes. The amount of damage caused by fraud varies from 15,000 ($198.01) rubles to tens of millions of rubles.

The statistics of the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center are disappointing. According to the polls, more than half of Russians (57%) have received calls from telephone scammers, and nearly one in five (19%) have gotten SMS messages. One-third of respondents (35%) have not come across any. Scammers most frequently called Muscovites, residents of St. Petersburg (70%), and residents of cities with over one million people (69%). SMS messages from scammers were more frequently received by young people 24-35 years old (26%) and residents of small towns (23%). Offers of banking services (38%), bank cards (27%), credit (8%), offers related to money transfers (5%) as well as information about winning prizes and offers of medical services (3% each) are the most frequently “legends” used by scammers.

The emergence of new trends in the deception of Russians is of particular concern. Fraudsters have recently turned their attention to the Gosuslugi portal. Attackers pretend to be employees of a popular service and get access to the personal accounts of their victims via QR codes. It is necessary to give proper respect to the support service of the portal, which has promptly responded to the messages about activation of swindlers and has strengthened the protection of user accounts. Now, after entering a code from an SMS message the cracker or a real user will have to enter some additional information such as personal insurance policy number (SNILS,) tax identification number, passport series, and number. In addition, there will be a reminder in the SMS message with the code that it must not be disclosed to anyone. Finally, you can specify a secret word on the portal, which will be asked before entering the code.

Undoubtedly, digital technology makes our lives easier. But when falling into dishonest hands, they give rise to new criminal schemes. How not fall victim to them? Participants in the round table called many methods of protection against cyber-fraudsters and voiced measures to combat them.

How many times did we hear about “free lunch”, but we continue to fall for this unsophisticated ruse of criminals. According to experts, it is necessary to improve financial literacy and public awareness. Changes are needed in the recovery of stolen funds. The problem of strengthening the protection of personal data increases significantly in the conditions of the pandemic. The formation of a civilized insurance market should become a serious obstacle in the way of cyber fraudsters.

Special attention should be paid to toughening criminal penalties, as well as to the elimination of numerous legislative gaps. In this connection, the position of some of our deputies is perplexing. For example, the Chairman of the Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technology and Communications Alexander Khinshtein said at the February international forum on digital security Cyber Security Day 2022 that there was a sharp slowdown in growth in the segment of cybercrime in 2021, including telephone fraud. This raises the question of how to understand the information of the Central Bank that the volume of cyber-fraud in Russia in 2021 reached record levels. Almost 3 billion rubles ($39.6 mln) were stolen from credit institutions’ clients per quarter.

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