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Social engineering fraud

‘Social engineering fraud’ is a broad term that refers to the scams used by criminals to trick, deceive and manipulate their victims into giving out confidential information and funds.

Criminals exploit a person’s trust in order to find out their banking details, passwords or other personal data.

Scams are carried out online – for example, by email or through social networking sites – by telephone, or even in person.

Working with the private sector

The different types of fraud are often carried out by multiple fraudsters, with people in different countries handling the different stages of the crime. Given the difference in legislation between nations, this is a complicated type of international crime to investigate.

It is difficult to estimate the loss to individuals and companies as victims are often reluctant to report the crime, but total global losses are estimated to run to billions of dollars or euros per year.

What the industry is doing

INTERPOL is supporting a campaign started by a group of affected companies against the misuse of their company names for lottery scams. The Advance Fee Fraud Coalition includes the African Development Bank, Microsoft Corporation, the Western Union Company, and Yahoo!.

The Coalition has two main aims:

  • To raise public awareness and so prevent people falling victim to this type of scam;
  • To encourage victims to report their cases both to police in their home country and to the company in question. The data will then be passed on to INTERPOL, in order for the Organization to initiate and support international investigations.

The importance of collecting data

Scams are often carried out by Internet, mobile device or cell phone, and it is essential to gather as much related data as possible. For example:

  • Complete communication records (individual message content could lead directly to the perpetrators);
  • All e-mail addresses involved;
  • All telephone numbers involved;
  • Postal addresses;
  • Personal data of the scammers.

We strongly encourage the public, private sector and police agencies – especially High-Tech Crime units – to share as much information as possible, in order to curb this fast-growing type of crime.

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INTERPOL strengthens cooperation in combating corruption in Africa


01 August 2016

Ringleader of global network behind thousands of online scams arrested in Nigeria


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Criminal networks using stolen payment card data targeted in global operation


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Financial crime focus of Doha conference


31 March 2016

Coordinating efforts to better combat cybercrime focus of INTERPOL working group


If you receive an email from someone claiming to represent INTERPOL, requesting personal information or bank account information, you should ignore it and treat it as spam.

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