I just finished reading an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal by M. P. McQueen, which suggests that the bear market is creating a bull market for fraudsters. According to the numerous experts cited in the article, the reason for this is economic gloom and doom with a healthy dose of anxiety.
This shouldn't be surprising because gloom, doom, and anxiety make effective social engineering tools that can be used to part people and businesses from their money.
The article references phishing expeditions that lead to fake Web sites — which often spoof a financial institution or government entity — and entice people into giving up enough of their personal details to drain their financial resources. It also mentions that some of these sites leave behind malicious software on a person's machine, which steal all these details automatically.
Also mentioned is the use of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), caller-ID spoofing and cell phone technology to mount texting and vishing attacks. Vishing is merely another method of tricking people to give up personal and financial information via the telephone. In these attacks, the caller ID is spoofed to make it appear as if it is coming from a legitimate institution.
Apparently telephone technology is being used to commit other types of crimes, too. Many of our 911 centers cannot identify spoofed calls coming from computers using VoIP technology. This has led to S.W.A.T. teams being tricked into deploying in full battle gear to residential neighborhoods when no emergency existed. Of course, businesses use the same technology to trick people who have caller ID into picking up their telephones. You can even buy a card to do this at will from any telephone right over the Web.
It sometimes amazes me how much irresponsible technology there is out there, which is being sold legally. There are even Web sites, with disclaimers, that specialize in making this technology available to the general public. Of course, there are also complete DIY (do-it-yourself) phishing kits being sold over the Internet. Some of these even come with tech support. The phishing kits are illegal, but can be found for sale in chat rooms if you know where to look for them. Sadly, the truth is that these chat rooms aren't very hard to find. The fine line between legitimate enterprise and scams is often a little blurry.