The FBI is sounding the alarm about a growing threat: money theft scams that robbed unsuspecting victims of a whopping 2 million in the first half of 2023 alone.
These scams often begin with a seemingly legitimate notification, which appears to come from your bank or even a government entity, alerting you to a computer breach.
But, as most tech-savvy users might assume, these are all lies.
Here’s the new low: ‘Believe me, I’m here to help’
Scammers are launching devious ‘ghost hacking’ campaigns, with older adults often in their sights. Your ultimate goal? Manipulating their victims into emptying their own bank accounts.
This sinister method is an evolved version of old tech support scams, where victims are surprised with sudden pop-up messages warning that their computers have been compromised.
But this is where they have upped the ante. Scammers have diversified their repertoire of masquerades. Gone are the days of pretending to be technical support people.
Now, they are imitating bank executives or government officials to lull us into a false sense of security before they strike.
Scammers are launching devious ‘ghost hacking’ campaigns, with older adults often in their sights. Your ultimate goal? Manipulate their victims into emptying their own bank accounts
A look at your playbook
Imagine this scenario: Your phone rings and, on the other end of the line, someone claims to be a helpful representative from your bank.
They tell the heartbreaking story of a hacker from a distant foreign country lurking sinisterly in your account. Panic takes over us.
They then suggest that you transfer your funds to a “secure” government account for your protection. Remember, it’s for your own good.
Don’t fall for it. Once you do that, your account and your money will be under the control of the scammer.
The FBI’s alarming statistics shed light on the scale of these scams: 19,000 complaints related to tech support scams in just six months, resulting in losses of $542 million.
A heartbreaking detail? Almost half of those defrauded were people aged 60 or older. You have to be alert!
Protect yourself: the game plan
Remain skeptical: When faced with unsolicited emails, text messages, or pop-ups warning you about a data breach, banking issue, or account issues, pause and evaluate. Most likely it is a scam.
Validate the source: Before taking any action, confirm the alert with your bank or the supposed agency. Always trust official phone numbers or websites.
This sinister method is an evolved version of long-standing tech support scams, where victims are surprised with sudden pop-up messages warning that their computers have been compromised, and then the scammers demand payment to unlock the person’s computer.
Stop those transfers: No US government agency will order you to send money abroad or buy gift cards.
Regularly review bank statements: Regularly checking your financial statements can help you spot any unauthorized activity early.
Use two-factor authentication (2FA): Improve the security of your accounts by enabling 2FA whenever possible.
Educate and warn others: Share information about these scams with friends and family, especially those who might be more vulnerable.
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Avoid remote access: Never allow unknown people to take control of your computer remotely.
Password Protection: Regularly update and diversify your passwords using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
Install a reliable antivirus: Keep your devices protected with up-to-date security software.
A final protective measure
Alert the FBI if you are the target or victim of such a scam. Reporting the incident could be invaluable.
In my conversation with senior FBI officials, I was assured that each report is meticulously vetted.
By sharing your experience, you equip authorities with the information they need to catch these criminals.
Beware the Hustle of Heartbreak: The Romance Scam
While tech support and banking scams are on the rise, another type of scam involves stealing more than just money: the ‘romance scam’.
In a digital age where many are looking for love online, scammers have found a way to exploit the hearts of the unsuspecting.
How it develops:
Sudden love: Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites or apps, luring victims with charming profiles and attractive photos.
Building Trust: They will spend weeks, even months, building trust, often sharing made-up personal stories and pretending to fall in love.
The Sob Story: Once trust is established, they will share a heartbreaking story, such as a sudden medical emergency, and ask for financial help.
Protect your heart and your wallet
Profile Verification: Reverse Search for Profile Photos on the Internet. Scammers often reuse images from other sites.
Avoid oversharing: Be careful when sharing personal or financial details with anyone you just met online.
Never send money: No matter how compelling your story is, never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person.
True love shouldn’t cost anything.
If someone you’ve met online starts asking for money, it’s time to question her intentions.