New Visa Report Finds That Even Savvy Consumers Get Tripped Up by the Language of Fraud


“Winning,” “free gift,” “exclusive deal,” “act now” are among top language traps cited in Visa’s ‘Fraudulese: The Language of Fraud’ report.


A new research report from Visa, “Fraudulese: The Language of Fraud,”1 brings to light that when it comes to spotting scams, cybercriminals are finding vulnerabilities among even the most tech-savvy consumers. While nearly half of the population are confident they can recognize a scam, 73% globally are likely to miss the requisite red flags in digital communications.

Consumers are increasingly falling victim to the language of fraud, “fraudulese”, used in sophisticated digital scams. Whether in the workplace or on the go, consumers are often bombarded by phone, text and email with offers for "free gifts" and traps to "act now" to supply personal information before a vital service gets cut off.

According to the Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre, out of the 16,000+ security events recorded in Hong Kong in Q4 2022, phishing attacks launched via emails or instant messages was the greatest type of security threat, with a 90% increase quarter-on-quarter to over 13,000 incidents recorded.

From spoofed service notifications supposedly from your electric company, to an email alert about winning products from a store, or even job acceptance confirmations from top-tier companies, scams hit almost every touchpoint in consumers’ digital lives. In FY22 alone, Visa has proactively blocked USD 7.2 billion (HKD 56.5 billion) in attempted fraudulent payments across 122 million transactions before those transactions impacted clients.

“Understanding the language of fraud is increasingly essential in our digital-first world. Scammers have reached new heights of sophistication in both language and variety – no one is immune,” said Pavan Kumar Muttireddy, Head of Risk, Visa Hong Kong & Macau.  “Education around the language of scams is an integral part of our consumer protection and highlighting the commonalities in the language of fraud helps prevent crime globally.”

Exploring The Language of Fraud: A Disconnect Between Awareness and Action

Falling victim to cyber fraud is costly. Figures released by the Hong Kong Police Force reveals that deception cases in Hong Kong alone increased by 42% in the first half of 2022 over a year ago to more than 12,000 cases, with losses of around HKD 2.1 billion. Shopping fraud, employment fraud, investment fraud and telephone deception accounted for over 60% of the total cases.

According to Visa’s new report, which surveyed 6,000 adults in 18 markets worldwide including Hong Kong, scammers appear to be thriving in the gap between consumers’ awareness of the language of fraud and their actual behavior. Among top findings:

  • We think others are more susceptible to fraud than we are. While consumers feel confident in their own vigilance, the vast majority (90%) are concerned that friends or family members may fall for potential scams that include emails or text messages asking people to verify their account information, asking about overdrawn banking accounts and notifying them about winning a gift card or product from an online shopping site.
    The most enticing clickbait messages capitalize on consumer excitement, and fraudulently tout “winning,” “exclusive deals” or “free gift,” the survey found. In Hong Kong, consumer respondents were most enticed by “exclusive deals”, followed by “click here” and “limited time”.
  • Is it legitimate? More than 4 in 5 (81%) respondents check the wrong details to determine the authenticity of a communication, focusing on features scammers can easily fake, including the company’s name or logo (46%). Individuals can better protect themselves from fraudsters by checking details that are harder to fake, such as account numbers or details about their interactions with the company.
  • Overlooking telltale signs. Only 60% of people reported looking to ensure a communication is sent from a valid email address. Fewer than half (47%) look to ensure words are spelled properly.
  • Crypto users proceed with caution. Crypto users are more likely to identify the right kind of verifying elements of a potential scam than non-crypto owners. For example, they are more likely to check their account information (49%) to confirm the validity of digital communications.

Take A Few Extra Moments to Decipher Fraudulese

Consumers can better protect themselves by taking a few extra moments before clicking, including taking time to understand the way fraudsters use language. Among simple, but effective best practices: Keep personal information to yourself. Don’t click on links before verifying they’ll take you where they say they will. Turn on purchase alerts, which provide near real-time notification by text message or email of purchases made with your account. Call the number on corporate websites or the back of your credit and debit cards if you are unsure if a communication is valid – don't just call the number possibly provided by the scammer in their text or email.

Protection Is Visa’s Top Priority

While cybercrime persists in an increasingly digital world, Visa is mission-driven to protect consumers and mitigate fraud. Over the past five years, the company has invested more than USD 9 billion (HKD 70 billion) in network security. More than a thousand dedicated specialists protect Visa’s network from malware, zero-day attacks and insider threats 24x7x365. In fact, over the last 12 months, Visa’s real-time monitoring with AI blocked over USD 4.2 billion (HKD 32 billion) in fraudulent payments, preventing many from ever knowing they were at risk of a potential fraudulent transaction. Learn more at


1 The Visa Security - Global Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 6,000 Nationally Representative Adults in 18 Markets: US, Canada, Brazil, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, UAE, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Australia, Mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, between September 7th and September 14th, 2022, using an email invitation and an online survey. Quotas were set for region as follows: APAC (2,000), US (1,000), Americas Excluding US (1,000), EMEA (2,000). Data has been weighted.


About Visa
Visa is a world leader in digital payments, facilitating transactions between consumers, merchants, financial institutions and government entities across more than 200 countries and territories. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, convenient, reliable and secure payments network, enabling individuals, businesses and economies to thrive. We believe that economies that include everyone everywhere, uplift everyone everywhere and see access as foundational to the future of money movement. Learn more at