Cybercrime: Recognize, Report, and Recover from Online Scams
with Ally Armeson of the Cybercrime Support Network
Cybercrimes cost Americans billions of dollars every year, but they often go unreported.
Ally Armeson, Executive Director of Programs for the Cybercrime Support Network, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss ways that cybercriminals leverage digital technology — and how consumers can recognize, report, and recover from online scams.
January 04, 2024
Anderson: Identity theft, hacked accounts, romance scams. Cybercrimes like these cost Americans billions of dollars every year, but they often go underreported. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Consumers reported losing almost $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission, but advocacy groups say the real figure could be even higher because victims may not realize they've been scammed or just don't know where to turn. Joining me to discuss how consumers can identify, report, and recover from cybercrimes is Ally Armeson. She is the Executive Director of Programs for the Cybercrime Support Network, and, Ally, thank you so much for being here.
Armeson: Thank you for having me.
Anderson: So what's one of the most shocking ways you've seen cybercriminals really leverage social media and other online avenues to go after victims' personal information and essentially use it against them?
Armeson: So cybercriminals study us, right? So, over time, they're looking at your posts, your information. So if you're posting about a job loss or a breakup or a death in the family, that's making you vulnerable to cybercriminals. Those online quizzes, right, that are so fun -- Where did you grow up? What was your first car? We love to reminisce about our past, but, unfortunately, again, they're gathering more and more information. And those -- those questions that are in those quizzes are security questions a lot of times to your accounts, right? So we just really need to guard our information and understand they're always collecting on us.
Anderson: And what about the role of artificial intelligence? I mean, how is that making it easier for the scammers to con us?
Armeson: Yeah, so we used to be able to say things like, if someone can't video chat with you or if their accent seems a little off or their voice seems a little off, it's probably a scammer. But now generative AI makes it so a scammer can look and sound like anyone. They can video chat with you. It's very scary. I mean, generative AI is a wonderful tool, but scammers have that tool, as well.
Anderson: So this is sort of how thieves get to our personal information, then commit crimes with our personal information. What kind of crimes are we talking about?
Armeson: I mean, the sky is the limit, right? Identity theft is a huge one. They have something that's called a suckers list, and we're all on it, unfortunately. If you've ever answered a robocall, you're on the suckers list, and this list is just a little database that they share with one another, and it has maybe your name or your number, and they're just slowly gathering more and more information until they have enough to really affect you, either financially or, again, steal your identity.
Anderson: I want to get back to the money aspect of this. We heard $8.8 billion leaving people's pockets. But it's not just leaving our wallets, right?
Armeson: Right, so that $8.8 billion, a lot of that money is actually going to other countries and other countries that don't exactly play well with America, right? So we can't reach out and pull that money back. So that's money that's no longer circulating within our economy. That's everybody's problem. And then, again, you think of resources needed to help victims. That's even more lost money. So it's a huge problem.
Anderson: And what about the tech companies and the social-media companies, which are the points of entry for these thieves to steal our information? How well are they doing when it comes to guarding against this?
Armeson: Yeah, there's -- I mean, there's always more that can be done, right, but it's a tough job. They're up against the world of scammers, of cybercriminals. It's not just one country. So another thing to consider is that, again, with generative AI, all these new tools coming out, these new technologies, scammers are using them, as well. So we're always on the defense.
Anderson: And combating all this is an ongoing issue. I'm not sure if it's one that's going to ever be solved, but what can we do as consumers to keep up and keep safe?
Armeson: Yeah, I don't think it will ever be solved as long as humans are interacting with technology, but, I mean, my plea to everyone is to focus on your passwords first, right? We're still using "password" as a password. We're still using "123456" as a password. So if you just, for the next year, focused on making a unique, strong password for all of your accounts, you would be in much better shape and you'd be safer. And then worry about MFA or updating privacy settings, all those things. Cyber hygiene is just like personal hygiene, right? It's a little bit at a time.
Anderson: And, Ally, I know people are going to want to know more about what they can do to keep safe, what you're working on. What's the website?
Armeson: Fightcybercrime.org. You can go there. We have very easy, simple resources that everyone can use to help them and their families stay safe from cybercrime. And you can also report through our website. So you can hit that "report" button, and we'll take you to the FBI or the FTC, depending on the crime.
Anderson: Ally Armeson of the Cybercrime Support Network, thank you for being here.
Armeson: Thank you so much for having me.
Anderson: And thanks to you for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.