The intersection of technology and sports is growing rapidly. Combine this issue with the legalization of and broad-based support for sports gambling, and there is a significant opportunity for criminals to leverage social media to cause temporary disruptions that create advantageous positions. In the lead up to the 2018 Olympics, think tanks researched how the outcome of sporting events can be manipulated as automation and electronic scoring and replay become more mainstream. While the integrity of the sport is important, what is easier to manipulate and more likely to see early manipulation is betting lines before large sporting events.
Placing Safe Bets
Gone are the days where betting lines are based on box scores, weather, and gut feeling. Like the stock market, sports books has moved to advanced algorithms to set the bet. These formulas rely on data from what are classified as verified sources to make adjustments to what the line should be. This introduces a weakness into the system that can be manipulated for short periods of time. We have already seen this type of manipulation in the stock market, when a hacked AP Twitter account tweeted that there was an attack on the White House in 2013. The market had a flash crash that shed over 100 points in minutes as all the algorithms responded to the news.
Beware of Hacked and Impersonating Accounts
With the current explosion of analytic data for sports outside of baseball, betting lines are similarly vulnerable to hacked social media accounts causing short duration, but advantageous fluctuations in the line. Fake injury reports, rumors of suspensions, trades, or even team discipline – if coming from verified sources – would manipulate betting lines across the country, if only for a short while. This new monetization stream introduces new digital risk that moves beyond the traditional fears of fixed games and must move into the world of weaponized information that is beyond the control of the franchises themselves.
Identifying Betting Scams
As more and more betting migrates onto online platforms, scammers have naturally shifted their attack surfaces to these platforms as well, with particular focus on social media. Capitalizing on the inherent trust that social networks establish between users, bad actors engage with unsuspecting users, building rapport through direct message before requesting funds or financial account information and completing their attack.
Some of the top betting scams on social media are related to soliciting basic 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 promise of returns much larger than the initial sum. Typically these scams will require the user to provide funds through wire, cashier’s check or by sharing direct account information so as to avoid potential credit card claims once the scam is identified. Sports investment scams target not only individuals (and particularly those who appear to have money to spend) but whole organizations as well, 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 the profits of your investment and will in fact lose all the money you invested upfront as well.
Another way scammers rely on technology to conduct betting fraud is through predictive software. Rather than betting based on stats or weather, social media users are pitched software that can allegedly predict the results of a game, based on historical trends and professionals. In actuality, the better may never receive any type of software – or worse, download malware in the process of using the software, which always under-delivers on its promises.
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, their methods for conducting these scams have become more wide-spread and sophisticated. It’s important to understand the warning signs before engaging with any betting account on social media to protect yourself and your organization from scams.
Here are a few things ZeroFOX recommends:
- Thoroughly review the profiles of any and all accounts you engage with: Impersonating and hacked accounts serve as the foundation for many sports betting scams. Ensure the account you are communicating with is legitimate – check for verification badges, follower counts, account creation date and previous posts/comments. Look beyond the profile to investigate the company more broadly – what is their digital presence overall?
- Never provide financial information or PII over social media: No legitimate business would require you to send personal or financial information through direct message on social media so 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 should be major red flags, 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 do your due diligence when interacting with any posts and profiles and remember to stay safe on social.