Younger generation more susceptible to fall prey to scam language

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Digital scams are everywhere in our daily lives. Whether at home, the workplace or on the go, we’re inundated by phone, text and email with offers for “free gifts” and traps to “act now” to supply personal information before a vital service gets cut off. And this deluge of fraud messaging is working.

A new research report out today from Visa and YouGov, “The Language of Fraud,” brings to light that when it comes to spotting scams, cybercriminals are finding vulnerabilities among even the most tech-savvy consumers. While nearly half of the population in Asia Pacific are confident they can recognise a scam, 40 percent are likely to miss the requisite red flags in digital communications.

From your bank asking you to change your login details, to an email alerting you that you’ve won products from your favorite store, or even text messages about a job offer at a top-tier company offering a large salary, scammers are using more and more sophisticated tactics to steal our confidential information and our money. Over a period of 12 months ending November 2022, Visa blocked USD7.2 billion worth of attempted fraudulent payments across 122 million transactions globally, stopping fraudsters in their tracks.

“Understanding the language of fraud is increasingly essential in our digital-first world. Today it’s not nearly so obvious you’re dealing with a criminal, and that applies to the language they use in their communications – no one is immune,” said Joe Cunningham, Regional Risk Officer, Visa, Asia Pacific.  “Education around the language of scams is an integral part of our consumer protection. By highlighting the communicative strategies, words and phrases used by fraudsters, we hope people are able spot the language of fraud as it stands today, which ultimately helps to protect them and the whole region.”

Exploring the language of fraud: A disconnect between awareness and action

Falling victim to cyber fraud is costly. In Asia Pacific, an estimated one in four consumers are online fraud victims and in Singapore alone SGD660.7 million was lost to fraud in 2022 bringing a total of almost SGD1.3 billion lost to fraud in the past two years.

According to Visa’s new report, which surveyed 15,339 adults across 14 markets in Asia Pacific, scammers appear to be thriving in the gap between consumers’ awareness of the language of fraud and their actual behaviour. Among top findings:

  • Confidence is deceiving. Consumers in India and the Philippines feel the most confident of their knowledge of scams, with 63 percent and 56 percent respectively stating that they are “very knowledgeable”, as compared to Japan with only 14 percent of consumers indicating the same. However, the findings show that consumers in India and the Philippines more than three times more likely than consumers in Japan to have been a victim of scam.
  • Age and awareness. While more than 50 percent of consumers in Asia Pacific assume older adults (aged 35 – 55+) are more likely to fall victim to online scams than younger adults (aged 18 – 34), and more younger adults than older adults considered themselves extremely or very knowledgeable about scams, the data suggests quite the opposite: Younger adults are 1.3 times more likely than older adults to have fallen for a scam.
  • Suspicious communication. Across Asia Pacific, requests to reset passwords are the top form of communication that people are suspicious of (41%). Notifications of a reward/coupon or gift comes in second (22%). This varies by geography – New Zealand (50%), Japan (50%), and Hong Kong (49%) rank highest in suspicion for password reset requests. India, Vietnam and Indonesia rank the lowest. As compared to other types of communications, Indonesia (32%) and Taiwan (29%) are most suspicious of rewards, coupons, and gift cards, while Japan and Korea are least suspicious.

The most enticing clickbait messages that consumers in Asia Pacific would most likely respond to capitalises on consumer excitement, and fraudulently touts “Free Gift,” “exclusive deals” or “Giveaway”, the survey found.

Take a few extra moments to decipher the language of fraud

Consumers can better protect themselves by taking a few extra moments before clicking, including taking time to understand the way fraudsters use language. Among simple, but effective best practices:

  • Keep personal information to yourself.
  • Don’t click on links before verifying they’ll take you where they say they will.
  • Turn on purchase alerts, which provide near real-time notification by text message or email of purchases made with your account.
  • Call the number on corporate websites or the back of your credit and debit cards if you are unsure if a communication is valid – don’t just call the number possibly provided by the scammer in their text or email.