Micro-Frauds: Virtual Robberies, Stings and Scams in the Information Age
CORPORATE HACKING AND TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN CRIME: SOCIAL DYNAMICS AND IMPLICATIONS, T. Holt, B. Schell, eds., pp. 68-85, Hershey, PA (USA): IGI Global, 2010
22 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2010 Last revised: 6 Aug 2014
Date Written: March 2, 2010
Network technologies have shaped just about every aspect of our lives during the past two decades: not least the ways that we are now victimised. From the criminal’s point of view net technologies act as a force multiplier of grand proportions providing individual criminals with personal access to an entirely new field of ‘distanciated’ victims across a global span. So effective is this multiplier effect that there is no longer the compulsion to commit highly visible and risky multi-million dollar robberies when new technologies enable them to commit multi-million one dollar thefts from the comfort of their own home, with a relatively high yield and little risk to themselves? So, the most common use of computers for criminal gain is to fraudulently appropriate informational goods, not just money. For the purposes of this discussion the term ‘micro-fraud’ is used intentionally. This is because most of the victimisations are not only informational, but also networked and globalised. They also tend to be individually small in impact, but so numerous that they only become significant in their aggregate. Conceptually, micro-frauds are those online frauds that are deemed to be too small to be acted upon and which are either written off by victims (typically banks) or not large enough to be investigated by policing agencies. These qualities distinguish the micro-fraud from the larger frauds that do also take place online and which tend to capture a disproportionate amount of media attention. Yet, these larger frauds are relatively small in number when placed against a backdrop of the sheer volume of online transactions. Micro-frauds are the opposite, they are highly numerous and relatively invisible. As a consequence, their de minimis quality stimulates a series of interesting criminal justice debates, not least, because micro-frauds tend to be resolved to satisfy private (business or personal) rather than public interests. The purpose of this chapter is therefore to map out online fraud in terms of its distinctive qualities and to outline any changes that have taken place over time. Part one explores the virtual bank robbery in which offenders exploit financial management systems online, mainly banking and billing. Part two looks at the virtual sting and at the way that offenders use the Internet to exploit system deficiencies to defraud businesses. Part three focuses upon the virtual scam, which is the techniques by which individuals are ‘socially engineered’ into parting with their money. The final part discusses the prevalence of micro-fraud and some of the issues arising for criminal justice systems and agencies.
Keywords: Cybercrime, Cybercrimes, Fraud, Virtual Robberies, Stings, Scams, Micro-fraud
JEL Classification: K19, K14, K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation