Wyoming Reported Scams – Annual Release of Data

LARAMIE – In its fourth year of collecting scam information, the CyberWyoming Alliance released the annual Wyomingite reported scam statistics from the Hacker’s Brief, a weekly report of scams that are redacted and posted on Facebook groups, sent via email subscriptions, and printed in community minded newspapers. The information is collected through phishing@cyberwyoming.org. Wyomingites self-report text, phone, email, mail and in-person scams to alert their friends, family and neighbors.

Aligning with national statistics, Wyomingites reported email as the primary method for hackers to contact them, with 171 emails reported in the past 2 years captured by the CyberWyoming Alliance. Phone reports were second at 14 and text messages were third at 11.

The largest category of scam reports (81) were the Fakes, which are comprised of fake notifications, invoices, rewards/winnings, offers, and purchases. General phishing scams were the second largest category at 62 reports. Despite being a common scam, Medicare fraud was not reported as often by Wyoming citizens.

“Hopefully, the lack of Medicare reports by citizens indicates that they can spot that scam, and our communication efforts along with the Wyoming AARP and the Wyoming Division of Aging are working,” said Laura Baker, President of the CyberWyoming Alliance. CyberWyoming Alliance partners with Wyoming AARP and the Wyoming Division of Aging to publish and send scam alerts to two thirds of the senior centers in the state.

The most impersonated companies on the list include Harbor Freight (21), Norton products like Lifelock and antivirus software (8), Kohl’s (8), Geek Squad (6), and PayPal (5). However, the Geek Squad scams reported in late 2022 and early 2023 were tied with government impersonation.

There were also reports of Wyomingites being impersonated, like impersonations of former and current employees of Wyoming businesses. There was even an impersonation event logged after Baker traveled through 3 different airports calling her employees in one of them which spoofed her personal cell phone number.

“Luckily, my employee knew that I don’t use robo-calls that say ‘hold please’ at the beginning of the call,” said Baker. “It is a good idea for any leader, before they leave on a trip to talk to their employees about what they may or may not ask for and make it clear that it is okay to double check these types of requests, out of channel, which is one of the steps we encourage in Wyoming’s Cybersecurity Competition for Small Business,” she continued. 

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report for 2023, the top three highest crime types by victim count in Wyoming were Extortion with 117 victims and $36,077 in losses, Tech Support with 90 victims and $890,496 in losses, and Non-Payment/Non-Delivery with 86 victims and $989,096 in losses. The top three highest crime types measured by victim loss were investment fraud, BEC, and breaches. Investment fraud emerged as the costliest type of crime at $5,725,712, followed by business email compromise (BEC) at $2,302,076, and data breaches at $1,522,000. The total financial losses incurred in Wyoming amounted to $13,746,109. The FBI also reported an increase in the number of overall complaints with 828 reported incidents in Wyoming alone. 

Studies show that prior knowledge of a scam reduces the chances of a potential victim engaging with the scammer. This insight is drawn from studies such as “Exposed to Scams: What separates victims from non-victims?” conducted by the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, the Stanford Center on Longevity, and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, published in September 2019.

Baker suggests that creating a security aware culture in the family or business can combat scams and fraud. Creating the culture that ‘if you see something, say something’ applies to online fraud as much as it does to terrorist activity. Families should discuss scams and scam tactics at the dinner table and companies should discuss them at staff meetings.

Registration for Wyoming’s Free Cybersecurity Competition for Small Business ends on May 1st. More information can be found on www.cyberwyoming.org/competition. Now offering up to 35 CLE or CPE credits for completing the program! It is sponsored by community minded companies and organizations including Campbell County Health, Capitol Communications, Casper College, Language I/O, The National Cybersecurity Society, Computer Professionals Unlimited (CPU), DigeTekS, EvnTec, Factory IT, First Federal Bank & Trust, Gannett Peak Technical Services, HUB International, IECA, K2 Technologies, PDS, Rocky Mountain Cybersecurity, Sweetwater Technology Services, Team Networks, and Wyoming Manufacturing Works. A grant from the Gula Tech Foundation also made the competition possible.

About the CyberWyoming Alliance: The CyberWyoming Alliance is a statewide, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Laramie whose mission is to increase cybersecurity awareness, education, and outreach in communities across the State of Wyoming.

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