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Tech scams are continuing to grow in scale and damage. According to CBS News, Americans have reported over $2.7 billion in losses to tech scams from social media alone. Further losses are being accrued through other sources, too, of course; but with that figure coming from one source, alone, the scale of the problem is laid out quite clearly. As more of the nation moves to a digital-first footing, these attacks are only likely to increase in volume, and scale, too. There is a strong argument that concerted and decisive action is needed, today, to halt their rise and make the internet safer for all. One way to make persuasive action is, potentially, through an assessment of the costs.
Making a compelling case
The government and internet service providers are, of course, keen to stop tech scams. It improves the reputation of businesses; and gives the government a better record when it comes to providing for the country. The role of government is in pushing regulation that can be enforced, monitored, and proper compliance put into place; and more needs to be done.
Of course, governance speaks in money, and understanding the full cost of tech scams requires an assessment of the wider economic impact - not just from direct losses to consumers, but the knock on impact on businesses and regulators. After all, there is a significant risk of reputational damage; and the wider cost of tech fraud is estimated to be approaching $343 billion globally. There has been a focus from enforcement on stopping the tide; indeed, in July the FTC announced a huge push to bring greater enforcement of the regulations, resulting in up to $2 billion in fines. However, in the face of such a huge industry, there’s an argument that more needs to be done - starting with businesses.
Applying business techniques
A good way to protect consumers, from the business perspective, is to look at the advice and techniques. The US Chamber of Commerce has sought to do this through a series of advisories. A large focus has been placed on how cybercriminals use social engineering tactics to scam businesses; undermining the sense of trust and compassion that many rely on to take advantage. For businesses, the crucial factor is in keeping close control over your affairs in terms of that trust.
Your livery and branding should be consistent and hard to replicate. On the phone, email, and in other communications, your business should have a method that makes it absolutely clear that your business, and only it, is communicating. Tech tools can help here, too, such as the use of personal information and the all-crucial two factor authentication. Essentially, you should make it as difficult as possible for any actor apart from the customer themselves to access their data - and stay on top of new developments.
More often than not, however, the key to preventing tech scams is in the human resources you have at your disposal. As the Vermont Small Business Development Center notes, a lot of effective scam protection comes from the good senses of individuals. Employees who learn of scams can flag them. Similarly, information on potential scams can be disseminated through the correct routes by vigilant employees and other interested parties. In an age where many scams travel through social media, word of mouth can be just as effective as high-tech methods.
At the same time, it’s important to point friends and family towards digital resources. Word of mouth can be the immediate and often crucial step in ensuring that the first step is taken, and consumers take the initial foot in the door when it comes to their own safety. Building on from that is the next and most important step; bringing vulnerable people into full knowledge of digital scams and how they work, and how they can remain safe permanently.
These small steps will make effective change in the fight against tech scams. Long-term, however, the onus is on the authorities to make meaningful change and ensure that their regulations and legislation remain relevant for the coming years. Taking a firm hand now will ensure safety and reduced losses for the future.