If it sounds too good to be true, it’s a safe bet it is. When it comes to gambling, it’s all about the risk, and knowing you are taking a risk is a big part of the thrill that comes with placing those bets. However, as the gambling market continues to grow online at an exponential rate, it also attracts a lot of attention from threat actors and scammers alike, breeding betting scams like never before.
The challenge here becomes two-fold with (1) the legalization of and broad-based support for sports gambling and (2) the significant opportunity for criminals to leverage social media to their advantage and carry out malicious intentions.
After the Supreme Court voted to legalize the sports betting industry, it became a legitimate form of entertainment welcomed by the masses. While well-intended sportsbooks quickly began to surface in more significant numbers, now as organized and professional businesses, the betting scams hopped aboard just as quickly. The industry remains unregulated to a large degree, with many defining factors and gray areas that still need to be addressed. This translates to anyone and everyone stepping in as a self-proclaimed, seasoned “handicapper” with a new startup company or product. This is a common term in the sports betting industry for experts that study games and other variables in great detail to garner consistent winnings, in turn offering their insights to those willing to pay. Before you place your next bet, take time to familiarize yourself with the most common sports betting scams. We will review the evolving risks in online betting scams, as well as what you can do to stay informed and protect yourself.
A New Era of “Smart” Betting and the Scams that Follow
Betting has evolved beyond gut feeling and moved into a more informed domain. Similar to the stock market, where traders constantly skim large amounts of data to determine which direction numbers will go, gamblers have advanced to seek out tried and true algorithms to set bets. Closely related to data mining, tools of the trade include the latest and greatest “betting predictive software” or “sports prediction software” packages. Although these “tried and true” resources can certainly pose as such and make promising claims, threat actors can just as easily employ phishing, fraud, and impersonation tactics here as well.
The promise of predictive software is the perfect doorway for cyber criminals to conduct betting fraud. These tools allegedly predict a game’s results based on historical trends and professional opinions, and more are surfacing with claims of using Artificial Intelligence to do the job.
With so many different models and forecasts promising to predict sports and game outcomes accurately, it is all the more critical to “buy-in” cautiously as more pop up daily with new ways to attract betters. Those that buy into this angle may never receive access to the proposed software and leave themselves vulnerable to downloading malicious files, such as malware, in the process.
The Sportsbook Betting Scam
Simply put, a “sportsbook” is an entity or company that accepts bets on anything up for a gamble, from sports to politics, and they are largely free to run how they see fit. Some consider these platforms a fun place to spend their time, while others consider them too chaotic. Either way, these sportsbooks have you right where they want you once they have your buy-in and your money. The lines begin to blur when betters are then promised ways to get inside winning information from software, systems, or groups.
In fairness, some of these systems or developers are sincerely aiming to crack the code into flawless winning streaks for themselves and their users. Most fall short and fail to make good on the promised success rates. Ask yourself: if these creators have cracked the system, would they be so willing to share their secrets with everyone else?
Regardless, the door is open to many gray areas: most users have to buy in to participate, pay large fees to gain access to information, or are encouraged to pay heavy purchase prices for “smart” software. A slew of winnings rarely offsets these upfront investment costs. Eager betters are easy victims in these cases; once the money is on the table, you may never hear from the experts again. The sportsbook turned sports betting scam is a quick way for criminals to have you place your bets, pay to play or use the software, and get nothing in return.
Betting Scams Go Social: Scamdicappers
What is legitimate and what is fraudulent has become more difficult to separate as scam artists continue to master their skills. There isn’t a social media platform out there that is exempt, and forums that used to be the perfect place to meet others with similar interests now serve as the perfect in for cyber criminals to target victims. The lines are often blurred between the authentic sports handicappers and the phishing “scamdicappers,” users are taking more than a gamble when they choose to buy-in.
Capitalizing on the inherent trust that social networks establish between users, cyber criminals engage with unsuspecting users, building rapport through direct messages before requesting funds or financial account information. Some of the top betting scams on social media are related to soliciting investments, joining betting syndicates, and the sale of prediction software. Investment scams look similar to other money-flipping scams that run rampant on social media. They require an immediate investment upfront with the promise of returns much larger than the initial sum. Typically, online betting scams will require the user to provide funds through a wire or sharing direct account information to avoid potential credit card claims once identified. Targets are not limited to individuals and can include entire organizations by framing these scams as business opportunities.
Betting syndicates are another common scam found across social media. These scams offer the promise of joining a pool of betters with an expert placing bets on your behalf. With these scams, you are asked to contribute funds upfront with recurring installments made over time, with the promise of receiving a percentage of the profits. In reality, you will never receive your investment profits and will lose all the money you invested upfront as well.
When everyone claims to be a sports betting expert or advisor, it can be challenging to weed out those with good intentions looking to build longevity in the industry, with the “flashier” scamdicappers who thrive on promising the most while delivering the least. This is compounded by the plethora of hacked and impersonated accounts surfacing on social media that serve as the foundation for many sports betting scams. Thoroughly review the profiles and forums of all accounts you engage with. Ensure the account you are communicating with is legitimate – check for verification badges, follower counts, account creation date, and previous posts or comments. Look beyond the profile to investigate the company more broadly and its digital presence overall.
Protect Yourself from Betting Scams
As long as sports betting has been around, scammers have tried to take advantage of legitimate betters and their money. With the increased use of social media and digital platforms, methods for conducting these scams have become more wide-spread and sophisticated. Know the warning signs before engaging with any betting entity to protect yourself and your organization.
Here are a few more recommendations from our threat research team:
- Never provide financial or personally identifiable information (PII) over social media. Legitimate businesses should never require you to send sensitive information through social media channels, be wary of any account asking you to do so.
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Accounts promising immediate or guaranteed returns are a red flag, particularly when it comes to something as volatile as sports betting, where there is no guaranteed outcome.
- As with anything you do online, make sure to research and apply due diligence when interacting with any posts and profiles.
- If you spot fraudulent or malicious activity, the FBI encourages anyone with information about illegal sports betting operations to submit a tip online or report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
A common denominator in most betting scams involves phishing attacks, which have spiked dramatically. Gambling professional or not, anyone can benefit from learning more about these types of attacks as they provide a wealth of opportunity for cyber criminals. While nothing new, the volume and sophistication of phishing attacks have evolved to enable even the least sophisticated of threat actors to successfully employ these techniques. Download the ZeroFOX report “The Anatomy of a Phishing Kit: Detect and Remove Emerging Phishing Threats” to learn more.