Each day, thousands of desperate people fall victim to fraud, encountering scammers at every corner, with many scammers also desperate. These encounters often result in high losses, with lives being extremely impacted. It’s the scale and breadth of this suffering that needs to be highlighted. Fraud professionals often have too narrow of a view of what fraud looks like, bucketing fraud and scams into different use cases and not grasping the scale and societal impacts.
If we really want to win the war against fraudsters, we need a more holistic perspective and approach. We need to understand the systems and structures in our world that foster desperation, motivate people to commit horrific crimes, and nudge vulnerable people into victimhood. Intellectually speaking, we all have a horizon. Each of us can only conceive of a finite number of scams, cons, financial crimes, or ways that another human being can be exploited. Unfortunately, that’s a small slice of the many ways human beings are being victimized.
Our job within the industry primarily is prevention, and in turn, it is to protect the vulnerable, stop the criminals, and keep in mind that both groups are products of the same reality. So, how do we expand our perspective while not becoming overwhelmed and jaded, and remain action oriented?
Accept reality and use it to our advantage.
Fraudsters are human beings just like you and I, motivated by making money, the power of succeeding, and the opportunities of scaling. They have a simple formula that they apply to all fraud and scams: What is the path of least resistance and highest ROI? And unlike you and I, they will achieve it no matter the human, business, or societal damage.
Viewing it like this, we can respect the scale and damage of fraud and scams, while not being overwhelmed by the 7 million different types. We understand this is human nature and it will literally never end. That being said, the way we fight back does not need to be overcomplicated.
We need to deter fraudsters by making it not worth their time and effort. If the ROI isn’t there, they will give up and move on to a new target. If we make enough of the targets not worthwhile, we will be winning a lot more than we are losing.
In today’s world, fraudsters are beginning to pivot from targeting technologies and databases and are instead leveraging an easier bull’s-eye—the human mind. The ROI on scamming human beings is more rewarding, with more data stolen and monetized. Social engineering is running rampant, with digital platforms making it easier to target the vulnerability of the human mind, and to fall victim to these tactics. As an industry, if we don’t do a better job educating and protecting folks about/from scams—they will bleed society until we do. And when we do, they will move somewhere else.
The fraudulent game of whack-a-mole may never end. But again, we need to respect the scale and challenge and take the appropriate actions to crush fraudsters’ ROI. It’s the only thing that will make them stop, in the absence of laws and morality.
PJ Rohall is Head of Fraud Strategy & Education at SEON. A seasoned professional with more than a decade working in the industry, PJ is also the co-founder of About-Fraud, a global community for fraud fighters that provides resources, news, and insights about fraud trends around the world.