Scammers Beware - We've got your number
I remember the pre-internet days when the biggest scams you had to look out for were friends trying to get you to buy into a pyramid scheme. Once we all became familiar enough with this wonderful invention called email, we eventually learned never to click on any suspicious links, even if they are coming from a “known” email. Unfortunately, scammers have gotten so sophisticated now that they are stealing (literally) billions of dollars each year through phone and internet-based scams. Here are some basic reminders to keep your money and information safe:
- Scammers pretend to be from an institution you know
- The IRS or Social Security Administration will NEVER call you
- Scammers say there is a problem or a prize
- A loved one is in the hospital and needs money
- You have to pay a fee to claim your winnings
- Scammers pressure you to act immediately (see story below)
- Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way
- Commonly with a wire or in cryptocurrency
This hits home for me as my mother was recently almost scammed. The following is a recounting of the event and is an excellent example of how even highly-intelligent people can almost get taken . . .
“Last week, I received a security alert on my computer. My screen was suddenly filled with the alert in big letters, which was supposedly from Microsoft, and the computer was actually 'talking' to me--loudly--telling me not to delete the message or turn off my computer or I would lose everything on it--all my files. WARNING, WARNING! I'd never experienced my computer talking to me!
It told me to call the largely displayed number immediately, which certainly got my attention as my computer was still shouting at me. I ran back to my wife's bedroom to get her help.
And… we called the number (which we now know was a bad mistake). We reached someone who called herself Erica Baker, who readily provided her ID# and her direct desk phone number. She informed us that we had been hacked and our identity was 'stolen.'
Regrettably, we fell for her spiel and probably compromised our personal information by following her instructions to open a screen-sharing program. We were told that foreign IPs had hacked us and that our Wi-Fi system had been breached. She asked for the name of our bank while continuing to caution us that our identity had been stolen, illegal activity was on our computer, and not to tell anyone we had been hacked as 'they might be the hackers' and that the hackers could even be listening to our conversation.
We fell for it. ☹ She then proceeded to transfer our call to an 'Apple secure line,' where we spoke with another member of their scam team who pretended to be a representative of our bank. He then 'checked and confirmed' that Erica Baker was legit and that we had been hacked. He then verified there had been a 4:30 AM pre-authorized debit of $6,900.
I asked if it could be stopped or reimbursed. 'No,' he replied, 'we can't do that because it was pre-authorized.' It was then explained to us that perhaps if I did a 'replication debit' - something to the effect that they would cancel each other out. This sounded nonsensical, and my wife immediately became suspicious. The scammer explained that the process is very complicated and technical, but if we followed his directions exactly, he could walk us through it.
At that point, we declined and told him we would contact our bank directly to take care of the situation with them. Amidst his protesting and urging, 'let me walk you through the replication process and take care of this for you,' we hung up.
We immediately called our bank, and they told us there had been no withdrawal from any of our checking accounts. We canceled not only our debit cards but our credit cards, then changed our passwords on all our online financial accounts. We have also put a block on our credit reports. It was a nightmare I hope never again to experience.”
Written by Laura Neal, CFP®
Image Credit: Feodora Chiosvia iStockphoto.com