The FTC recently released the top scams of 2022 report. $8.8B USD in reported losses from US individuals and investors. That’s an $8.8 billion dollar gain somewhere else. Despite the decrease in number of reports to the FTC, the amount of scammed money soared from the previous year. Below is a really great infographic they put out. I’m curious to see how this whole industry of scamming evolves.
Can you technically call it an industry, if the outcomes aren’t ethically agreeable? I think so. An industry is a manufacturing activity and a “distinct group of productive or profit-making enterprises.” Scammers manufacture networks of lies and maintain for-profit operations (and apparently a pretty big profit from just the US). Many of these groups are organized and without feedback loops to regulate their pervasive systems. They are a deceptive team of people getting paid to call or text you from an unknown number. They group DM you on social media. They are a dating app profile exploiting our cravings for intimacy. They are a fake business on a job board or cold emailing you with job offers, when you are in a desperate place. They are legit business entities that are scamming large amounts of money from investors (that’s Generation Wealth at its finest — capital for the sake of capital). Why would someone work more to make less money, when they can gain wealth for themselves and potentially their family, by exploiting the richest country in the world?
“There’s a sucker born every minute.” — P.T. Barnum (legitimate US business man)
There’s lots of concern with devices and the growth of green industries, like solar, and the human rights involved with cobalt mining; yet scammers are more hated than the US supply chains that fuel these militia-controlled and child-labor resources. There’s a lot to learn about these legitimate business operations, which usually fall outside of US jurisdiction (podcasts and docuseries, like Trafficked, have followed the scammer trail).
Some systemic justice is being served. In 2020, the Department of Justice published a release about a scammer who was arrested and “ordered to pay restitution of $8,970,396 to identified victims of his crimes.” That’s about 0.1% of 2020 justice served compared to the total amount scammed in 2022. When the root causes of social and economic inequity are unresolved, these scams prevail. With AI and big data growing in popularity, fraudulent activity is only going to scale just as fast and facilitated through the same technology and systems of globalization. Those dark web purchased contact and credit card lists will stay alive with each new data breach — California businesses have over 50 reported breaches in the first two months of 2023. Who will step in? Big tech can barely moderate themselves let alone take responsibility for its users online behavior and this is pretty beyond governments.
Our trust in technology can only be as strong as each compounded experience where technology is involved. Why would I want to check my email when my inbox is constantly bombarded by scams and junk? Why would I want to keep job searching, when half the applications go to a scammer that is going to harass me later? How can the average person, let alone my 83-year-old father, have the literacy to navigate the constantly evolving scam industry? It’s all very exhausting.