Refund and Invoice Scams Surge in Q4

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Researchers have warned consumers to be on their guard after revealing an increase in scams using phishing emails and vishing fraud to steal their money.

Avast recorded an increase in refund and invoice fraud of 14% between October and November 2022, and then a further rise of 22% in December.

The former works in a similar way to classic tech support scams that often combine email and phone vectors to defraud the victim.

“Refund fraud covers a broad range of possible scenarios, including fraudulent emails alerting users that they have been charged twice for the service or product,” the Avast report noted. “These emails also contain links for users to request a refund, or alternatively, a phone number is provided for users to call fake support.”

Once on the phone, the scam agent will try to persuade the victim to download remote access software and open their bank account so they can ‘see the refund in process.’ However, the real goal is to drain that account of funds.

Invoice fraud is more one-dimensional in that mainly businesses are sent bills for items they never ordered.

“The scam succeeds mainly because the invoices look legitimate and unsuspecting employees don’t look closely to see it’s not real. They simply make the payment thinking that someone else in their company placed the order,” Avast said.

The security vendor also noted a large uptick in tech support scams in the final two months of 2022. It claimed the risk of UK consumers experiencing such scams increased by 11% in Q4 versus the previous quarter.

“At the end of 2022, we have seen an increase in human-centered threats, such as scams tricking people into thinking their computer is infected, or that they have been charged for goods they didn’t order. It’s human nature to react to urgency, fear and try to regain control of issues, and that’s where cyber-criminals succeed,” said Jakub Kroustek, Avast malware research director.

“When people face surprising pop-up messages or emails, we recommend they stay calm and take a moment to think before they act. Threats are so ubiquitous today that it’s hard for consumers to keep up.”

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