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Better Business Bureau ®
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In Greater Kansas City
3 Modern Conveniences That Have Opened Up New Ways for Fraud
March 31, 2014

In today’s always-connected society, consumers create and share more information than ever and can complete almost any task—from bill payments to transferring funds between bank accounts—from the palm of their hands.

But the same conveniences that make our lives easier can also be used to our detriment.

As technology evolves—so do new, tech savvy criminals constantly looking for vulnerabilities and new ways to profit at the expense of unsuspecting others. To help, the Better Business Bureau of Kansas City points out three widely used modern conveniences that can mean trouble when used irresponsibly or accessed wrongly.

Smartphones & Apps

We all know mobile is a growing source for fraud, but have you considered cybercriminals may actually prefer reaching you on your smartphone?

Research reveals mobile phone users are at least three times more likely to become victims of phishing and malware than desktop users.

40% of smartphone users enter passwords into their phones at least once a day and are accustomed to entering their credentials into simple interfaces on smartphones. But such routine can be risky. As mobile login screens are typically very minimal, they are also easier for attackers to copy.

The careless downloading of mobile applications is another cause for concern. Many download games and other apps without researching the developer or knowing what permissions and personal information they are granting to app-makers.

The Path app, for example, came under scrutiny last year for automatically uploading user address books to its servers without asking permission and even geo-tagging uploaded user photos without authorization. The company was fined $800,000 by the Federal Trade Commission for illegally collecting personal information without consent.

There are also rogue and impostor apps. These ‘fake’ apps, typically free or a fraction of the cost of the original app, may harbor malicious content.

Virtual Offices & Telephone Services

Leveraging modern technology and new age conveniences, criminals have become more clever than ever at disguising their locations and executing scams from anywhere.

The virtual office industry makes it possible for businesses to maintain a corporate image at a far lower cost than a traditional lease. The concept benefits many startups and small businesses, or larger corporations in the initial stages of entering a new market.

However, virtual offices have also become a tactic of scammers and fraudulent ‘businesses’ who use the appeal of a corporate address to convey legitimacy.  

VoIP telephone services (Voice over Internet Protocol), which allow users to place and receive calls via Internet connection, have also surged in popularity and been employed by scammers who can obtain local phone numbers, even though located elsewhere. Unique and low cost VoIP phone numbers can allow those carrying out malicious activity to avoid using easily traceable numbers. It also allows fraud to be carried out almost anywhere in the world under the guide of locality.

GPS

Location data is increasingly being used to prevent fraud.

MasterCard, for example, is piloting a system where smartphone GPS is used to authenticate travelers’ purchases by only approving transactions when the device is switched on in a specific location abroad.

But GPS can also be used negatively.

Criminals who access an in-vehicle GPS during car theft or break in can use it to know where you live. Many GPS devices have a ‘home’ button, giving burglars easy directions to the owner’s address. Your address plus the knowledge you’re away from home makes you a candidate for burglary. If you use a GPS and choose to log your home address on the device, put the system out of sight when away from your vehicle and consider not identifying your ‘home’ as such in the device.