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Take On Payments, a blog sponsored by the Retail Payments Risk Forum of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, is intended to foster dialogue on emerging risks in retail payment systems and enhance collaborative efforts to improve risk detection and mitigation. We encourage your active participation in Take on Payments and look forward to collaborating with you.

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June 1, 2020

My Dog the Cybercriminal

As I write, my dog Coco gazes at me soulfully in a bid to wrangle a bite of my peanut butter sandwich or, even better, the whole sandwich. This cute yet parasitical behavior is typical. In fact, after some weeks of close association, I have come to realize that Coco exhibits not only the skills but also the personality traits of a cybercriminal:

Coco, my dog.
  • She tracks my every move and knows when she's most likely to get a treat, just as scammers prepare for phishing attacks by learning about a business's vendors, billing systems, and "even the CEO's style of communication Adobe PDF file formatOff-site link."
  • She leaps at opportunities—butter on a counter, an open dishwasher—just as scammers are leaping at the chance to steal Economic Impact Payments, as Take On Payments reported in early May.
  • She balances work and reward. Coco knows the difference between kibble and mozzarella cheese and differentiates her efforts accordingly. In trainer lingo, the mozzarella is a "high-value treat," analogous to the personal information a criminal might be able to obtain via health care and Medicare fraudOff-site link.
  • She repeats successful tactics, like counter surfing. Similarly, perpetrators of the "grandparent scamOff-site link" know that what worked with imaginary bachelor parties in 2019 will work with imaginary emergency hospitalizations in 2020.
  • She's persistent. Again and again, she noses my hand away from my keyboard. Eventually, a treat or walk will ensue. Again and again, scammers email fraudulent COVID-19 cures and investment opportunitiesOff-site link in the hope of eventual success.
  • She adapts. How can she get the treat? Sit? Lie down? Roll over? Sit again? Criminal enterprises continually experiment and adjust, for example, by changing the threat of shut-off in the "classic utility scamOff-site link" to an offering of discounts on utility bills.
  • She's adorable. Every dog is, but trust me, Coco is especially adorable, just like the photo in a phishing email posing as an appeal from a worthy charity Adobe PDF file formatOff-site link.
  • She is utterly unconcerned with the needs and preferences of others: the criminal mind at work.

No doggy day care. No walker. Me and Coco, 24/7. Did I mention that she's adorable?

It you sight any of these doggy behaviors, you can report coronavirus-related complaints to the Justice Department National Center for Disaster FraudOff-site link.

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