Jorij Abraham is not only the General Manager of the Global Anti-Scam Alliance (GASA) and ScamAdviser, but also one of the individuals that has contributed the most to the evolution —and success— of Domain Trust as an initiative.
Apart from his central role at the very beginning of the project (Domain Trust was presented at the first Global Anti-Scam Summit, in 2020) and his continued support in bringing the initiative to the large and diverse community of online-scam fighters (of which he himself is a globally recognized champion), his organization, ScamAdviser, is currently one of the largest data contributors to our platform.
His insights, as you all can imagine, are gold to us. This is why we are so happy —and thankful— to have taken an hour out of his busy calendar for this interview.
Goedemorgen, Jorij. I really appreciate your time and willingness to talk with us in spite of being so extremely busy between the preparation of the third Global Anti Scam Summit (GASS) and the promotion of the Global State of Scams 2022 Report.
I am conscious of time and I know I can take advantage of your ‘Dutch-ness,’ so I will shoot the first question right away.
Is online fraud a threat to the integrity of the Internet?
Yes! There is a clear relationship between the level of trust and the GDP growth of a country. The more people trust each other, the faster an economy blossoms and grows. Online fraud —be it merchants cheating consumers or consumers cheating merchants— is seriously threatening the level of trust. It raises barriers and costs, additional checks are build in, processes are delayed…
The number of people having been scammed on the Internet is increasing dramatically. In most western countries, 50 percent of the consumers come into contact with a scammer at least once per year. Their contact and financial details are not necessarily phished (that is about 2 percent), but the fact of being contacted by criminals is making consumers become more careful. This not only hampers the growth of the internet, but it also drives consumers towards a few trusted platforms. The number-two reason people buy on Amazon is trust (the number-one is price). In the end, this is hurting the diversity of the platforms as well.
ScamAdviser has just turned ten years old: how has the issue of online fraud changed in the last decade?
Scammers are professionalizing very rapidly. When ScamAdviser was launched in 2012, most scams were pretty obvious. The golden rule —’if it is too good to be true, it probably is’— was sufficient to identify 90 percent of the scams.
This has changed. Professional scammers (there are still a lot of amateurs), for example, know that selling 50 percent below the market price makes consumers careful. So, instead, they offer attractive products (Apple Airpods are the most popular now) for 10 percent below the market price. Likewise, they have automated the scamming process. We recently noticed with one scammer that, if we took down his online store, within a minute a new one was set up, completely automated. While we still get bulk emails from Nigerian princes, targeted scams are on the rise, using our social media accounts to personalize scams with the names of our friends and families. In short, it is becoming very, very difficult for the average consumer to recognize a professional online scam.
How do you see the project in ten years from now?
Currently we are losing the war against scams. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, 0.05 percent of all cybercriminals are prosecuted.
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, scammers operate globally, distributing their scams across hundreds of websites and tens of countries. The reporting of online scams is still very dispersed. Most countries do not have a central reporting system, let alone a national team fighting cybercrime. As a result, it is very difficult to identity scam networks as there is no single resource for law enforcement to connect the dots.
Secondly, even if a cybercrime organization is identified, apprehension is nearly impossible. Organizations like Europol and Interpol do not have sufficient resources, capabilities, let alone the authority to take action.
With the Global Anti Scam Alliance, we hope to bring governments, law enforcement, consumer and financial authorities, and commercial organizations together to share insights and knowledge on online scams and to start the long process of creating a global response to this increasing menace. With ScamAdviser, we hope to offer law enforcement and Internet service providers a concrete tool to identify scam networks and to take them down.
The fight against online fraud crosses different communities and receives different approaches around the world: could you describe that ecosystem briefly?
Each country is currently fighting scams in its own way. The United States is currently the furthest in its development. FBI’s Internet Complaint Center (IC3) has existed for more than 20 years. The Federal Trade Commission has done some excellent work in centralizing the reporting of online scams. However, efforts are also fragmented across multiple agencies (local police, Federal Trade Commission, Homeland Security, and even the Secret Services).
In other countries, the state of online fraud reporting, investigation and apprehension is less professional or even non-existing. Especially in developing countries, reporting an online scam is not possible. Law enforcement still views this as a stupid mistake made by the victim. The victim should have known better.
What spaces for collaboration exist in that ecosystem? What else could be done?
Several steps are necessary. The first is that countries must facilitate easier online reporting of scams. In some countries, citizens still have to travel to the capital to physically report an online scam. Secondly, we must share data about online scams globally. As stated earlier, scammers spread their activities across multiple sites and countries. Only by sharing data can we identify new scams faster. Thirdly, changes in legislation will be needed to apprehend scammers. A cybercriminal in Country A should no longer be able to walk free if he scams a citizen in Country B.
What role does the fight against domain abuse play in that all? What brought you to Domain Trust?
Domain Trust is an essential part in bringing together data to allow faster identification and apprehension of cybercrime. We have supported Domain Trust from the start as the way to report abuse and help Internet Service Providers to take faster action again cybercriminals.
What are your expectations as a —highly esteemed— member of the Domain Trust Community, and the GCA family as a whole?
I strongly believe in the importance of Domain Trust. My hope is that in five years, Domain Trust will become the standard for registries, registrars, hosting companies, and other Internet service providers to keep their platforms free of malware, phishing, scams, and other kinds of cybercrime.
Thanks a lot, Jorij, for your insights and for your commitment with the Global Cyber Alliance and the Domain Trust initiative. I am happy I will be seeing you very soon in The Hague for the GASS event. Tot binnenkort!
The author, Alejandro Fernández-Cernuda Díaz, is the Director of Engagement of the Internet Integrity Program, where Domain Trust sits. You can connect with Alejandro on LinkedIn.