How Push Payment Scams Demonstrate the Dark Side of Technology


Unscrupuls man with umbreallaOn the one hand, technology has made many things convenient for us, but on the other hand it has inadvertently facilitated criminal elements as well. The digital world, for instance, has been decked by many such scams where criminals fully use their technological expertise to rip victims off.

From banking card fraud to online shopping scams, users are hounded from multiple criminal fronts at the same time. For such reasons, it has become a stipulation for every individual to remain on guard while conducting their monetary dealings in a technology-ridden environment.

While we are talking about technological scams, it would be quite fitting to discuss push payment scams.

Push Payment: The Quickest Way to Rip off People

Push payments were introduced as an instant option for transferring money where the transaction happens in real time. However, quite ironically, this method of money transfer has also become a quick way to perpetrate unscrupulous dealings.

Since the money transfer occurs in real time, it is not possible to revoke the transaction. This feature of push payment has been exploited by the scammers in a really effective manner. They vanish in thin air as soon as money is transferred to them. The victims can’t do anything about the transferred money even if they instantaneously realize that they have been conned.

It is important to understand that with old-school ways of transactions, one gets enough time for deliberations about the transaction. Moreover, they have the option to reverse or hold the transfer for an extended time period even after they have made the transactions.

With authorized push payments, this is not the case. The simplicity of money transfer and the instantaneous nature of it have made people more vulnerable to get conned by the criminals who are using it as their tool of scam.

Push Payments Often Targets Individuals

Push payment has become a popular mode of transaction in this decade with unprecedented advancements in the domain of the internet. However, it still hasn’t become that common for businesses transactions. Organizations use conventional means to transfer money for two reasons.

  • They have to take care of a large sum of transactions
  • They usually send money to other business accounts

For that reason, push payment thieves concentrate their focus on targeting individuals. There are several ways in which people can fall victim to push payment scams. But before we move to discuss this, it is important to discuss an important psychological tool that the scammers use to lure victims into their trap.

Social Engineering: A Psychological Tool

In simple words, social engineering is the set of techniques to deceptively manipulate people to give away their confidential information to unauthorized people. To convince people to make push payments in their name, scammers also social engineering tactics.

For instance, phishing is the most common technique employed by push payment scammers. After doing a bit of homework, they choose the target on which they can employ social engineering tricks to rip them off. We can understand the use of social engineering with some real-life examples of push payment scams.

Push Payment Scams Through Invoice Payments

Posing as a legitimate payee, scammers temper invoices and persuade people to pay them. There are several cases where push payment scammers have ripped off people through seemingly legitimate but actually fake invoices.

Scammers Conned a Whole Neighborhood

More than two years ago, the scammers ripped off various households in an affluent suburban neighborhood in England. They skillfully tempered the invoices sent by a local school to the residents whom children are enrolled. Then they cleverly changed the account details in the dispatched letters and put back them in the mailboxes.

The attackers got success in trapping several households. The victims only came to know that they had lost thousands of pounds to the scam when the school notified them that their due was still outstanding.

A Couple Ripped off by a Fake Contractor

In another push payment scam, an English couple fell victim to a scammer, posing as their construction contractor. The scammer cunningly used phishing to convince the couple that they were talking to an authorized person. Moreover, he even tempered and sent an invoice very similar to the original one. The couple paid the scammer 25,000 pounds, the amount which they had to pay to the legitimate builder.

From the above example, it is quite clear that the theives knew the details of the construction company the couple was dealing with. Moreover, the scammer was really resourceful because he succeeded in generating a duplicate invoice of the construction company.

Ripping off a Football Club

As mentioned earlier, push payment scams often target individual victims. But April this year, an Italian A-grade soccer club, Lazio became a victim of push payment scam. They have stole a whopping two million Euros. The scammers posed as a Dutch football Feyenoord from which Lazio had signed a deal to buy a player.

In this case too, phishing was used to carry out the scam. The scammers on the behalf of Feyenoord emailed the account details to Lazio for a money transfer. Lazio’s administration came to know about the scam when Dutch told them that they hadn’t received any money.

In this case, one can criticize Lazio for being extremely irresponsible with its monetary dealings. Transferring millions of Euros over an email communication is not advised in any circumstances. However, one has to appreciate the craft of the scammer who seamlessly executed their scam.

Last two cases that we have discussed here clearly demonstrate how technology can act as an enabler in scams. The scammers cleverly used the Internet and email to carry out their fraudulent tasks. Moreover, the instant nature of push payment scams didn’t help the victims to reverse and hold their payments. Regardless of the amount you are transferring through push payment, it is always better to cross-check the veracity of the payee.


Posted On November 9, 2018