The specious language of fraud.
N2K logoNov 16, 2022

Social engineering as a linguistic performance.

The specious language of fraud.

A report from Visa and Wakefield Research describes the effectiveness of the language used in social engineering attacks.

Common social engineering phrases.

The researchers found that 48% of respondents believe they can recognize a scam, but 73% are susceptible to common phrases used by scammers. The most successful scams contain the following phrases and terms: “Win online free gift card,” “Free/giveaway,” “Exclusive deal,” “Act now,” “Limited time offer,” “Urgent,” “Click here,” and “Action needed.”

False confidence.

The researchers also found that respondents who are confident in their ability to recognize scams are actually more likely to fall victim to them:

“Consumers who describe themselves as very or extremely knowledgeable in recognizing scams are more likely than others to respond to or act on at least one type of message commonly used by scammers (72%, compared to 64% of those who say they are somewhat knowledgeable or less). They are particularly more likely to respond to messages about a financial opportunity (34%, compared to 23% of those who describe themselves as less knowledgeable).”

Additionally, most respondents were far more likely to believe that other people were susceptible to scams:

“While consumers feel confident in their own vigilance, the vast majority (90%) are concerned that friends or family members may fall for potential scams that include emails or text messages asking people to verify their account information, asking about overdrawn banking accounts and notifying them about winning a gift card or product from an online shopping site.”

Added, 5:00 PM, November 16th, 2022.

Doriel Abrahams, Head of Analytics at Forter, puts some fraud trends into a larger context.

“Compared to 2021, individuals today are spending about 8% more on necessary items and services like food, rent and energy. While a hard truth to face, consumers have proven resilient by stretching their dollar and being more selective with the brands they trust. Understanding this, it’s important to understand that International Fraud Awareness Week is now just as much about who retailers grant access to, as it is about who to exclude.

"Consumers are going to be scrupulous this holiday season, but are still excited to shop after a near-three-year celebration hiatus. Online retailers can’t afford to leave money on the table by denying new, legitimate customers and solely focusing on existing clientele. Our research shows that about 40% of customers will shop with a competitor when falsely declined for a purchase, and merchants can lose up to 75x more revenue to false declines than they do to fraud.”