Scams This Week: Terminology

September 7, 2022


The world of scams is complex and constantly evolving, but there are some common terms financial crimes investigators like Det. Brad Thone use to sort out scams.

One of the most overused phrases is “I've been hacked.”

1. Hacking: The gaining of unauthorized access to data in a system or computer.

A “hacker” will use technology to break through and get into a device or system to find data. Most scams do not involve hacking. It usually involves social engineering.

2. Social Engineering: The use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes.

Social Engineering is an umbrella term for several methods scammers use to trick you out of your information and money.

3. Phishing: The fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Phishing sites go after millions of people as a random attack. These emails are made to look like they came from a known reputable source. The content of the email is about an action required and is usually a response to “suspicious activity” on your account, or alerting you of a purchase you did not make.  The email will likely say External in the subject line and will not be from the email you know. But it is designed to instill a quick fear reaction. There are multiple iterations of how the scam will play out depending on the target's response. The email could contain Spyware that infects your computer, take you to a site where you need to enter personal and banking information, or provide a number to call which is to the scammer.

4. Spear Phishing: The fraudulent practice of sending emails ostensibly from a known or trusted sender in order to induce targeted individuals to reveal confidential information.

The circumstances are similar to a Phishing Scam but in this case the scam is more target. The scammer has likely done some research online or through social media and will use that information to manipulate you. The email may look like it’s coming from a coworker or loved one.

5. Vishing: The fraudulent practice of making phone calls or leaving voice messages purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as bank details and credit card numbers

If you get a robocall that's vishing. Any kind of call where the person is threatening you for money ( warrant scams, grant scams, grandparent scams, etc.) is vishing.

6. Smishing: The fraudulent practice of sending text messages purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.

This also applies to scams done through social media with fraudulent links, verification notices or request to share data with someone online.

  • Never call numbers provided in these messages. Look them up yourself and call the actual business.
  • Never click a suspicious link.
  • If the email is just a name hover the cursor over the name to see the actual email address.
  • Always question, and then confirm before clicking or providing money or information due to an email, call or text.
Phishing Email
Phishing Email
Spear Phishing Email
Spear Fishing Email
Smishing Text
Smishing Text
Smishing Message
Smishing Message
Vishing Voicemail
Vishing Voicemail

7. Malware: Software that is specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system.

Malware is a virus that can come in many different forms. Malware can be spyware that can be linked into your computer. It can be that ransomware. It can be a keylogger. It allows scammers access into it or allows them to log your keys so they can see your passwords and other typed data.

Account take overs usually happen done through one of the above methods. Scammers use social media accounts they have taken over to attempt to scam the friends on that persons social media account using the familiarity to induce the fraud.  This is why it is important to never send money to anyone you have not spoken with.

8. Catfish: Lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.

Catfishing like other types of account take overs is still not hacking. Someone has taken public facing information and are using it to scam or manipulate you and your loved ones. Anything you put online publicly can be saved and used to create an account in your name or another name using your likeness.

9. Money Mule: Someone who transfers or moves illegally acquired money on behalf of someone else.

Most money mule situations start with victims being scammed. Once they can’t be scammed out of their own money they’re roped into another scams. It often turns into threats. If money is sent to the money mule/victim and they do not send it to the suspect, this is when the threats start. They’ll say if you do not send the funds then they will be hurt, arrested for stealing the money, or even that a hired killer will be hunting them down and killing them if they do not send the money.

You can contact Det. Thorne on Facebook or follow @DetThorneBPD on Twitter.

Find more scam prevention tips on our website.

Contact: Boise Police Media Relations

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