Social engineering crimes involve deception to obtain a person’s personal identification information. Often, the scammer will use a fake survey or another social study device to lead the individual to think that the survey is real.

This can occur through means such as:

  • Telephone calls
  • E-mail or other computer transmissions
  • Social media websites
  • Text messages
  • In-person discussions

Many different types of consumer fraud scenarios involve social engineering plots. For example, the suspect may open with a line, “We’re conducting marketing research. Would you please provide your name and social security number?” They may even offer (fraud) prizes or incentives for participation when they aim to accomplish widespread identity theft.

What is Identity Theft?

The U.S. Department of Justice broadly defines “identity theft” as a phrase that applies to all crimes involving getting and using someone else’s data through deception or fraud for their economic gain.

For instance, suppose a person saves their credit card details on their computer, to a web browser, or within a pre-filled form on a website. If a hacker acquires access to it and uses it to buy something, it would be deemed identity theft.

Another way identity theft can happen is when someone is not cautious with their data in public. For example, suppose that they give out information over the phone when they are in a public place, such as their credit card or social security number. A criminal can readily overhear it and write down the details to use later in that circumstance.

As you can see from the above instances, the internet has supplied criminals with many more opportunities than before the technology existed. Therefore, it is essential to use precautions to protect your offline and online data. Otherwise, you could have a criminal history, fraudulent tax records, and a poor credit score because a thief decided to swipe your identity.

What Is Consumer Fraud? What Are the Types of Consumer Fraud and Consumer Fraud Scams?

Under consumer protection and fraud regulations, consumer fraud refers to a distinctive type of criminal fraud. The victim is a consumer, while the perpetrator is either a seller or advertiser of merchandise. Generally speaking, so long as the fraud involves some services or goods, it could be deemed consumer fraud.

The definition of consumer fraud encompasses a broad range of activities. Some examples of a few of the more common scams include:

  • Sellers not delivering merchandise in an adequate fashion, such as an auto dealer selling lemon cars;
  • Sending merchandise to individuals without their knowledge and then pushing them to pay for it by threatening legal action or ruining their credit ratings;
  • Sweepstakes and lotteries in the form of offering you a bonus if you pay a “fee” and then fail to deliver the prize; and
  • Charities that only pretend to be working for a good cause ask you for a donation.

Some specific types of consumer fraud include:

  • False Advertising: False advertising refers to deliberately deceiving a consumer about some aspect of a product. This factor was instrumental in the consumer’s decision to buy the product;
  • Bait and Switch: Bait and switch is the method of luring the consumer in with an unbeatable discount that is no longer available. Then, only different products are offered; and
  • Pyramid Schemes: Pyramid schemes refer to any promotion or idealistic return when the only cash made is the return on the funds of people newly recruited to the system. Pyramid schemes may also be referred to as multi-level marketing or MLM.

In terms of specific consumer fraud scams, there are many different ways a person may be a victim of fraud. Some examples of the most typical consumer fraud scams are:

Who Are the Targets of Social Engineering Crimes?

Social engineering crimes can be committed against anyone.

Nevertheless, many are often deliberately targeted at specific groups, such as:

  • Elderly persons (i.e., elderly identity theft)
  • Younger, less skilled consumers (such as first-time homebuyers)
  • Persons with enormous amounts of property and assets
  • Individuals who have many sudden fees or legal problems, such as personal injury victims

Typical social engineering criminality is where the culprit visits a nursing home or an elderly care home. This individual may interview an elderly person with a fake interview or survey and obtain the person’s information.

What Is Identity Theft Against the Elderly?

Identity theft, also known as identity fraud, against the elderly happens when an identity thief fraudulently receives the private information of an elderly or senior person. Miscellaneous financial crimes are then committed using the elderly individual’s social security number or credit information.

Such offenses can include making illicit purchases, receiving unauthorized loans, or stealing the individual’s assets and property. Often, the thief can be a relative or a business that the elderly individual has placed their trust and confidence in.

The elderly are common targets for identity theft for several reasons. First, many have built up large amounts of funds and assets throughout their lives. Also, many elderly individuals have diseases such as dementia which render them unfit to make proper financial decisions. Ultimately, many elderly citizens are unfamiliar with the complexities of modern credit arrangements. Many grew up in a different cultural setting that honored word-of-mouth transactions.

Identity theft is only one example of fraud against the elderly. Other affiliated financial crimes against the elderly include predatory lending and phishing scams.

How is Elderly Identity Theft Accomplished?

There are two primary routes by which identity thieves can receive an elderly person’s information. The first is indirectly by hacking into personal accounts such as credit lines, bank accounts, medical records, or care home records. Often, the thief will get a password or other details that will give them access to such records. Since many retired individuals do not use internet technologies, physical mail is often used.

The second route is a direct meeting with the elderly person, typically via theft by deception. The thief may visit the individual at their retirement home and have them sign a loan document such as a mortgage statement. They can then use the details provided for various other criminal purposes. This is typical in situations where the elderly individual’s mental judgment is no longer sound.

Thus, you can help safeguard your loved ones by being involved if they are approached and asked for their personal information or bank account statements.

How Are Social Engineering Crimes Handled?

Social engineering crimes can lead to severe legal penalties for individuals caught doing them. They can lead to charges classified as misdemeanors, resulting in jail sentences, fines, and other consequences.

A civil lawsuit may result in many cases, especially if the scam caused the victim to lose money or assets. This can result in a monetary damages award that will authorize the victim to be reimbursed for their losses.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Social Engineering Crimes?

Social engineering crimes can sometimes be very complex and take place on an immense scale. You may wish to employ an identity theft lawyer if you need legal guidance or think you have been affected by a social engineering crime.

Your lawyer can provide you with guidance for your claim and help represent you during any court proceedings. Also, your lawyer can help give tips on preventing social engineering crimes from happening in the first place.