Criminals ramp up social engineering and AI tactics to steal consumer details

16 April 2024, 00:04

A hand on a laptop
Fraud research. Picture: PA

Fraudsters have been sharpening their social engineering tactics and continued to exploit cost-of-living pressures, according to Cifas.

Criminals are finding new ways to target consumers using social media and deepfake technology, with cost-of-living pressures also having an impact, according to a fraud prevention body.

Cifas said that over the past year, members had reported being increasingly concerned about the potential growth in fraud generated by AI or artificial intelligence.

It is seeing an increase in AI-enabled identity fraud, such as sophisticated phishing scams, deepfake images, videos and audio.

In total, according to its Fraudscape report, more than 374,000 fraud cases generally were reported to the Cifas National Fraud Database (NFD) last year.

Cifas said that members prevented £1.8 billion worth of fraud losses.

Identity theft remained the most dominant type of fraud, accounting for nearly two-thirds (64%) of incidents. More than 237,000 cases were recorded in 2023.

Criminals sharpened their social engineering tactics and continued to exploit cost-of-living pressures, Cifas found.

An increased use of AI and data harvesting techniques to fraudulently open and abuse accounts, steal identities and take over customer accounts was also highlighted.

Personal bank accounts are a particular target for identity fraudsters, Cifas said.

Account takeover attempts may also use spoof voices to answer security questions.

Cifas has more than 700 members from industries including banking and finance, insurance, telecommunications, retail and the public sector.

Facility takeover fraud – when an account is taken over by a fraudster – is also an increasing issue. Cifas said the telecommunications sector was particularly affected.

This increase partly reflects a shift in fraudulent methods, with criminals increasingly targeting existing accounts to obtain new products or upgrades, it said.

Misuse of facility – when a product is obtained with the intent of misusing it – was also found to have increased. There was a notable rise regarding loan products, Cifas said.

Cifas said the overall misuse of facility data covered several industries, highlighting the impact of the cost-of-living pressures and people attempting to avoid payments or financially gain from stealing assets.

Stephen Dalton, director of intelligence for Cifas, said: “As our latest data shows, the impact of fraud and financial crime on people, companies and the public sector continues at epidemic levels.

“Ongoing economic uncertainty and cost-of-living pressures provide a rich source of opportunity for criminals to exploit people at their most vulnerable. These circumstances may also be the catalyst for some individuals to commit fraud and supplement their income during difficult times.”

Mike Haley, chief executive of Cifas, added: “Criminals are finding new and sophisticated ways to target consumers, such as through social media and AI and deepfake technology. We are committed to driving down these cases through the sharing of data and intelligence and building effective defences to prevent fraud.

“To achieve our goal takes a huge multi-sector, collaborative effort. That means having effective cross-government leadership in response to fraud, enhancing victim support, providing critical counter-fraud insight to social media and big tech companies, and educating young people about the serious consequences of financial crime.

“We continue to work closely with the fraud prevention industry and multiple sectors to stem the rising tide of fraud and financial crime.”

By Press Association

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