Picture this: it’s your first week at a new job. You’re knee-deep in training when suddenly you receive an email from the CEO of your company.


Please, can you help me? I am very busy and need your help right now.

There is a pending invoice that needs to be paid urgently. Please click the attached link and pay it with high priority. Let me know when it is done.


Your CEO

This common scenario is just one example of the many ways scammers may attempt to trick you through social engineering scams. And they’re getting better at it, especially with the rise of AI.

Last year, a staggering 61% of identity misuse cases reported to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) were the result of a prevalent social engineering scam known as an existing account takeover (ATO). In this scheme, scammers gain unauthorized access to a victim’s account and exploit it for malicious purposes.

Read on to learn how to recognize social engineering attacks, their consequences, and tactics to avoid falling for them.

Common Social Engineering Techniques

Scammers use social engineering techniques to manipulate individuals into divulging sensitive information or performing actions that may compromise their security. Understanding these techniques is crucial for protecting yourself against potential threats.

Learn how to recognize five common social engineering tactics below:


Pretexting involves creating a false narrative to deceive individuals and gain their trust. Scammers might pose as someone trustworthy, such as a colleague, customer service representative, or even law enforcement. By fabricating a believable story, they trick victims into sharing confidential information or granting unauthorized access.


Phishing is a well-known technique where scammers use deceptive emails, text messages, or websites to appear as legitimate entities. This could include banks, online services, or reputable organizations.

Often, criminals use malicious links, attachments, or instructions to trick individuals into revealing personal details like passwords, credit card numbers, or account information. These fraudulent communications often create a sense of urgency or exploit emotions to prompt immediate action.


Baiting involves enticing individuals with the promise of a reward or benefits to manipulate them into performing an action that compromises their security.

Scammers may offer free downloads, giveaways, or enticing links that lead to malicious websites or the installation of malware. Once individuals take the bait, their systems or personal information may be compromised.


Tailgating, also known as piggybacking, relies on exploiting trust and human courtesy. Scammers attempt to gain physical access to restricted areas or sensitive information by following closely behind authorized individuals or requesting entry by posing as legitimate staff or contractors. These impostors take advantage of people’s inclination to hold doors or assist others.


Impersonation involves assuming someone else’s identity to deceive individuals and manipulate them into sharing confidential information or performing actions they wouldn’t otherwise do.

Scammers may pose as coworkers, superiors, or trusted professionals through various channels, such as phone calls, emails, or social media sites. Through exploiting trust and authority, they aim to extract valuable data or gain unauthorized access to systems.

Social Engineering and Identity Theft

Social engineering techniques play a significant role in facilitating identity theft, which is a serious threat to personal and financial security. You can better protect yourself by understanding the connection between social engineering and identity theft.

Here are several key tactics used by scammers to be aware of:

Gathering Personal Information Through Manipulation

Social engineering tactics involve manipulating individuals to divulge personal information willingly. Scammers may use various psychological techniques, such as building rapport, exploiting emotions, or creating a sense of urgency, to deceive people into sharing sensitive details like passwords, Social Security numbers, or financial data.

Through skillful manipulation, these fraudsters gather the necessary information to carry out identity theft.

Exploiting Trust and Authority

One crucial element of social engineering is exploiting trust and authority. Scammers often impersonate trustworthy figures, such as colleagues, superiors, or customer service representatives, to gain victims’ confidence.

Leveraging this trust, they convince individuals to provide access to their accounts, share confidential data, or perform actions that compromise their identities.

Data Breaches and Targeted Phishing Attacks

Data breaches and targeted phishing attacks are common methods employed by identity thieves.

In data breaches, cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to databases containing personal information – including names, addresses, and passwords. This stolen data is then used for identity theft purposes, such as creating fraudulent accounts or conducting financial fraud.

Targeted phishing attacks involve scammers sending tailored emails that appear legitimate to trick individuals into providing personal information, further enabling identity theft.

Impersonating Legitimate Organizations for Personal Information

Scammers often impersonate legitimate organizations, such as financial institutions, government agencies, or popular online platforms, to deceive individuals and extract personal information. They send convincing emails or make phone calls pretending to be from these trusted entities. Then, they ask for sensitive data like account numbers or social security information.

Social Engineering and Scams

Social engineering plays a prominent role in various scams, exploiting human vulnerabilities and manipulating individuals for financial gain. Understanding the connection between social engineering and scams is essential for recognizing and protecting yourself against these fraudulent activities.

Below are three common types of scams that heavily rely on social engineering tactics:

Advanced Fee Fraud

Advanced fee fraud is a prevalent type of scam that preys on victims’ greed and gullibility. Scammers typically send emails or messages claiming to have access to a large sum of money or an inheritance, offering to share it with the victim in exchange for an upfront payment or personal financial information.

The promise of a substantial reward entices individuals to fall for the scam and ultimately lose money or become victims of identity theft.

Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams

Lottery and sweepstakes scams exploit people’s desires to win big and improve their financial situation. Scammers inform victims that they have won a significant sum of money or a valuable prize but need to pay a fee or provide personal information to claim their winnings.

By leveraging the excitement and anticipation of a windfall, these scammers trick individuals into sending money or divulging sensitive data, only to realize there was no real prize to begin with.

Romance Scams

Romance scams target individuals seeking companionship or love through online dating platforms or social media. Scammers create fake profiles and build emotional connections with their victims, often over an extended period.

They establish trust and exploit the victims’ emotions before requesting money for various reasons, such as medical emergencies, travel expenses, or investments. The victims, blinded by their feelings, may end up sending significant sums of money to the scammers, who vanish once the funds are received.

Preventing Social Engineering Scams

Helping prevent social engineering attacks is crucial for safeguarding personal and financial security. When you’re aware of common tactics and implement preventive measures, you can significantly reduce your vulnerability to these deceptive schemes.

Here are several effective strategies for preventing social engineering attacks:

1. Increase Awareness

Increasing awareness about social engineering attacks is vital. Stay informed about the latest scams, techniques, and emerging trends. Regularly read security blogs, news articles, and resources from reputable sources.

Share this knowledge with family, friends, and colleagues to foster a collective understanding and preparedness against social engineering threats.

2. Verify Sources of Communication

When receiving messages, whether through email, phone calls, or social media, exercise caution and verify the authenticity of the source.

Never trust information blindly, especially when it involves personal or financial matters. Use trusted contact information obtained independently to reach out and confirm the legitimacy of requests or claims.

3. Protect Personal Information

Safeguarding personal information is crucial in preventing social engineering attacks. Be cautious about sharing sensitive details such as Social Security numbers, passwords, or financial information.

Avoid disclosing personal information in response to unsolicited requests, even if the request appears to come from a trusted source. Regularly review privacy settings on social media platforms to control the information accessible to others.

4. Follow Best Practices

To further help prevent social engineering attacks, consider the following measures:

  • Implement strong and unique password management for each account. This helps protect against unauthorized access by using passwords that are difficult to guess.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication whenever available. This adds an extra layer of protection by requiring additional verification steps beyond just a password.
  • Regularly update your software and operating systems. Software updates often include patches that address vulnerabilities, making it harder for attackers to exploit security loopholes.
  • Install reputable anti-malware and anti-phishing software. These tools can detect and block potential threats, including malicious software and deceptive phishing attempts.
  • Sign up for identity theft protection services. IdentityIQ services monitor your personal information around-the-clock, promptly notifying you of any suspicious activity.

Bottom Line

It’s crucial to protect yourself from the dangers of social engineering, especially when it comes to identity theft. Social engineering scams like pretexting, phishing, baiting, tailgating, and impersonation are designed to trick you into sharing sensitive information or compromising your security. These tactics make it easier for criminals to steal your identity.

To stay safe, it’s important to understand the risks and take proactive steps, such as signing up for IdentityIQ identity theft protection services.