Cyber Frauds, Scams and their Victims
eBook - ePub

Cyber Frauds, Scams and their Victims

Mark Button, Cassandra Cross

  1. 232 páginas
  2. English
  3. ePUB (apto para móviles)
  4. Disponible en iOS y Android
eBook - ePub

Cyber Frauds, Scams and their Victims

Mark Button, Cassandra Cross

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Crime is undergoing a metamorphosis. The online technological revolution has created new opportunities for a wide variety of crimes which can be perpetrated on an industrial scale, and crimes traditionally committed in an offline environment are increasingly being transitioned to an online environment.

This book takes a case study-based approach to exploring the types, perpetrators and victims of cyber frauds. Topics covered include:

  • An in-depth breakdown of the most common types of cyber fraud and scams.
  • The victim selection techniques and perpetration strategies of fraudsters.
  • An exploration of the impact of fraud upon victims and best practice examples of support systems for victims.
  • Current approaches for policing, punishing and preventing cyber frauds and scams.

This book argues for a greater need to understand and respond to cyber fraud and scams in a more effective and victim-centred manner. It explores the victim-blaming discourse, before moving on to examine the structures of support in place to assist victims, noting some of the interesting initiatives from around the world and the emerging strategies to counter this problem. This book is essential reading for students and researchers engaged in cyber crime, victimology and international fraud.

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1 ‘The dark side of crime’

Cyber frauds and scams


For many industrialised countries over the last 20 years there has been a decline in recorded crime. This has led some criminologists to question this fall and to seek to explain it. Some have pointed to better crime prevention (Farrell et al., 2011), some – more preoccupied with violent crime – have pointed to the liberalisation of abortion (Donohue and Levitt, 2001) or removal of lead from petrol (Nevin, 2007). A small number, however, have suggested crime may be changing, that it is morphing into new online forms (Fitzgerald, 2014). There is a strong argument to be made that crimes committed in a traditional offline environment, are increasingly being transitioned and instead perpetrated in an online environment. As authors, we are firmly of the view that crime has changed and that the online technological revolution has fuelled significantly different ways in which crimes occur. This can be attributed largely to the evolution of the internet, however it is important to acknowledge the development of technology in a much broader sense and its impact on offending behaviour as well as victimisation.
However, it is also important to acknowledge the longevity of fraud and deception offences. Fraud and scams are not a new phenomenon that has emerged out of the technological revolution, which has been taking place over recent decades. Rather there is evidence that frauds and scams have been a much bigger problem for some time, preceding the expansion of the internet and related technologies. The central issue is that fraud offences have largely been ignored and excluded from mainstream crime reporting. There is strong evidence to suggest that fraud has not been a priority of policing agencies for a long time (Button et al., 2015) and this has translated into inaccurate understandings and measures relating to the prevalence and impact of these offences, as well as a lack of resources allocated to investigating and prosecuting alleged offenders. Sadly, this same trend has also been observed with fraud perpetrated in an online environment. Cyber frauds and scams have been largely excluded from the main measures of crime, and there is a momentous task ahead to better record and accurately depict the extent and prevalence of these offences worldwide. The challenge also stems from the criminal justice community – and by this we mean politicians, law enforcement, and criminologists to name a few – and the importance that is placed with crime statistics largely of offences outside the cyber realm. Their preoccupation with these measures and other types of crime has meant that cyber frauds and scams have been neglected. They therefore represent the dark side of crime, subject to much less interest from the criminal justice system as well as criminologists, compared to traditional volume crimes, although this is beginning to change. Cyber fraud and scams are certainly not the only type of crime to suffer the consequences of under-reporting and other challenges associated with reporting, but nevertheless, there is still a critical need to improve understandings and practices associated with this particular type of crime.
This book attempts to address the lack of scholarly literature that specifically examines the issue of fraud perpetrated in an online context. While there has been an emerging field of studies around cyber crime more broadly (Clough, 2015; Yar, 2013), which point to some of the issues raised by cyber fraud and scams, this book is dedicated to an examination and analysis of the many facets of cyber fraud and scams which currently pose significant challenges to society. By focusing exclusively on the issues associated with cyber fraud and scams in a global context, it is our hope as authors to be able to instigate further interest and scholarly debate on this topic as well as provide a solid foundation for further research in the area.
Globally, there have been recent events that have marked a significant shift in recognising the true extent of cyber fraud and scams and their impact across society. For example, in 2016 in England and Wales, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) included fraud and computer misuse offences in its official statistics for the first time. This was a significant step for government and police, as the inclusion of these additional crime categories added 5.8 million new offences to the existing 6.3 million, almost doubling the overall crime figures. While this may seem extraordinary, it is an important step to acknowledging the common nature and prevalence of cyber crime offences and the impact they can have on individuals, businesses and government.
It is clear that there are some positive signs that point to an increased recognition of cyber fraud and scams and its associated harms and impacts. However, in order to effect positive change, we would argue that there needs to be cultural change across society, which recognises the severity of these offences and promotes a response from the fraud justice network (which includes the criminal justice system), commensurate with the harm caused.
The following chapters each seek to provide an in-depth examination of the many facets of cyber fraud and scams within a global context. This book draws heavily on the individual research of the authors, which examines cyber fraud and scams across victim experiences, policing responses, prevention efforts and the need for support services, across the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. What can be taken from this collective research is a realisation that the victim experience and police response for cyber frauds and scams appears to be consistent across each of these jurisdictions. Unlike other types of crimes whereby the geographical and cultural context can be an important factor to consider, in the case of fraud perpetrated in a virtual environment it can be understood as one global jurisdiction. As will become evident throughout the book, the experiences of victims in the UK mirror those in Australia as well as Canada. Unfortunately, this book will also highlight the overwhelmingly negative experiences suffered by victims both as a result of the fraud itself, and then as a result of seeking to report or gain a response through the fraud justice network. The following chapters will demonstrate many areas where much needed positive change is clearly evident.
This first chapter introduces the premise of the book. It provides a context to the problem of cyber frauds and scams globally. It illustrates some of the measures currently used to show the significant scale of the problem of cyber fraud and scams and the impact on victims. However, before this is undertaken, it is important to define some of the key concepts which underpin the book, including the terms ‘cyber fraud’ and ‘scams’. In doing this, the chapter will provide a typology of frauds which will be considered throughout this book. The chapter examines some of the changes in society that are taking place, changes which are fuelling the growth in cyber fraud and scams and are focused around the evolution of technology, though it is important to note that fraud has existed for centuries and cannot solely be attributed to the development of current technologies. Rather, these add a new dimension to the ways in which fraud can be perpetrated and understood. The chapter ends with a brief consideration of those who become engaged in such criminal activities.
Chapter 2 begins an in-depth examination of the large variety of cyber frauds and scams that exist. It uses the framework established in the opening chapter to further explore the most common fraudulent approaches and also provides some of the known statistics which illustrate the extent of known victimisation in this area (noting that this is one of the most under-reported crime types that exist). Lastly, the chapter explores victim profiles, and the current state of knowledge on who becomes a victim of fraud, highlighting the vulnerabilities of certain individuals and populations to certain fraud types. This culminates in the presentation of a segmentation approach, which breaks down the entire population according to their vulnerability and likelihood of experiencing certain types of fraud. An acknowledgement of the pervasiveness of fraud underpins several arguments across the book.
Chapter 3 focuses on victims through an analysis of how people become victims of cyber fraud and scams. It does this through an illustration of the large number of techniques and methods that offenders use to target potential victims. This encompasses a combination of both traditional offline approaches with evolving online methods. However, the role of technology and the role it has played in opening up channels of communication to target potential victims is highlighted as a dominant enabler of cyber fraud. This chapter reaffirms the notion that there is a fraud for everyone, and that everyone could be a victim of fraud, if approached in the right way at the right time, by a highly skilled offender. This chapter also begins to challenge the common misconceptions of who becomes a victim of cyber fraud and sheds light on the stereotype that exists.
Chapter 4 looks at the impact that cyber frauds and scams can have on the individual. It asserts that, while there is a common belief that fraud is a ‘victimless’ crime, this is far from the truth. It presents the small but growing body of research that argues that the effects of fraud on its victims can be as severe as on those who experience violent crime. In doing this, the chapter details the, often devastating, impact that fraud can have across many facets of an individual victim’s life. This includes both financial and non-financial harms. To demonstrate the reality of cyber fraud victimisation, this chapter uses a large number of case studies taken from current research to highlight the diverse effects of this crime.
Chapter 5 focuses on the discourses surrounding cyber fraud victimisation. In particular, it examines the negative stereotype that is commonly associated with cyber fraud and scams, asserting victims to be greedy, gullible, uneducated and somewhat deserving of their victimisation. This discourse places a large degree of blame and responsibility on the individual victim for not being able to discern the fraudulent approach in the first place. This chapter seeks to challenge this stereotype and the misconceptions associated with victimisation. Of interest, it does this through the identification of how humour plays an active role in reinforcing these perceived norms and beliefs. Again, this chapter draws upon the narratives of several victims to highlight the reality of their victimisation and seeks to present the reality of victimisation. It also establishes these discourses and negative stereotypes as barriers that inhibit the disclosures of these crimes to family and friends, discourage their reporting of these crimes to authorities, and prevent victims from seeking support (either informal or formal) to assist in their recovery.
Chapter 6 shifts the focus to the current lack of support services to assist victims of cyber fraud and scams. Despite the severity of its impact, as illustrated in Chapter 4, this chapter argues that there are very few services that are available to support this category of victims. This can be seen to result from a number of factors, including the victim blaming discourse outlined in Chapter 5, which does not acknowledge cyber fraud victims as genuine victims who require assistance to aid in their recovery. In spite of this, the needs of cyber fraud victims are outlined and the few examples of victim support available worldwide are explored. While small in number, these programmes offer some best practice examples that can be expanded upon and implemented in a greater number of countries.
Chapter 7 turns to an examination of current policing practices and responses to cyber fraud and scams, as well as a brief consideration of current sentencing and punishment practices for those convicted of cyber fraud. This chapter provides an in-depth analysis of the many challenges that face police and other agencies in seeking to implement traditional responses to cyber frauds and scams. The complexity of the policing landscape is presented, which comprises general state police bodies and bodies from hybrid, private, voluntary and finally international policing. The chapter examines many of the challenges such mixed provision creates, before exploring a case study of good practice in policing in this area. Policing cyber frauds and scams presents many unique challenges through the characteristics of these incidents, and while traditional policing methods are important, there needs to be an adaptation and development of new strategies to specifically respond to this crime type.
Chapter 8 uses the challenges posed by cyber frauds and scams as a platform for arguing the importance of prevention efforts to reduce the harm incurred by these events. It asserts that preventing victims from sending money or personal information in the first place, is a more effective and appropriate approach to cyber fraud and scams in general, compared to a reactive approach after the fact. Subsequent to a discussion on the similarities and differences which exist between crimes committed across offline and online environments, the chapter focuses on the adaptation of situational crime prevention techniques to target cyber frauds and scams. It then uses the example of Project Sunbird (an Australian programme which uses financial intelligence to target cyber fraud victims) to demonstrate the importance and impact that prevention efforts can achieve. Lastly, the chapter analyses the current prevention messages that surround cyber frauds and scams, and argues for a simplification of these to focus purely on the transfer of money or personal information.
Chapter 9 brings the book to an end, through a summary of the main arguments found within the book, arguing that this book has brought together a body of evidence that clearly agitates for the need to improve current practices, across the prevention, policing, and victim support aspects of cyber frauds and scams. It outlines the main challenges that lay ahead, and how these will impact on the field into the future. Despite the inadequacies that currently exist in the area, this chapter is optimistic and advocates positive change into the future, with the hope that this book is a starting point for the much needed dialogue to commence.
Overall this book argues the need to better understand and respond to cyber fraud and scams in a more effective and victim-centred manner. Across our individual research projects, we have seen the reality of cyber fraud victimisation and the impact it can have on individuals and businesses. We have also seen firsthand, the challenges faced by police and other relevant organisations in attempting to respond to these incidents and address victim complaints and concerns. However, as the book will highlight, there are several barriers that exist in the current c...