Cyberhackers, thieves and technology have all joined up to create a new phone scam. The con is emptying out bank accounts of unsuspecting victims in all 50 states and authorities are pressed to find a way to put a stop to it and catch those responsible.
Typically, a “target,” or intended victim, will get a phone call from a person claiming to be with either law enforcement or the victim’s bank. The caller then advises the victim that their account has been compromised and help is needed in identifying the thieves.
Anyone that wonders about the identity of the caller, is told to double-check the phone number on the back of the card issued by their bank. When the victim checks the number and compares it to the number on the Caller ID, they find the numbers match. Besides the phone number, the caller knows other personal information about the victim. Full name and address, date of birth and even the last four digits of the card are just a few of the bits of information the caller will have knowledge about.
Cyberhackers provide the voice on the phone with accurate information. With this, the caller can often fool the victim into giving up other information, including bank account passwords. The con man can then use this information to hack in to the victim’s bank account and starting transferring out money.
One man in Seattle lost $10,000 to cyberhackers and their friends. The man, who will remain anonymous, got a call from a lady claiming to be from the victim’s bank. She told the 45-year-old sales manager that the bank was concerned about fraudulent activity in the victim’s account.
The man became suspicious after the caller asked for two digits of his internet banking password. The victim asked the caller how he could be sure she was actually from the bank. The caller advised the victim to double-check the phone number on the back of the card and then compare it to the one on Caller ID. It matched.
The victim was convinced that the caller was genuine. After the call was finished though, the victim discovered a huge sum had been transferred from his account. His bank has since refunded his money.
Several watchdog companies have teamed with regulators to tighten up on this scam and investigations have been started. The groups are struggling to track down the criminals who are usually based overseas.
Data from the three main credit reporting agencies show that internet fraud, connected to banking, has increased by 35 percent in just the past twelve months. The average amount of dollars taken by criminals has grown from $695 to $894. What has most law enforcement agencies alarmed is the ease that the con men carry out the scam. It’s possible for anyone to sign up to use technology which can change a caller’s phone number and it only costs $20 a month.
The phone-number-changing technology is normally used by call centers which want to give the impression that they are operating in a certain geographical area. Conmen are also buying scripts from call centers to appear to be legitimate. The new fraud is occurring just as banks are cracking down on a similar scan called “courier fraud.”
Courier fraud has become a frequent crime where gangs pose as police officers. Usually targeting the elderly, they approach their potential victim and enlist their assistance in helping to track down fraudulent activity at the victim’s bank. Getting the victim to withdraw cash, the conmen send a courier to the victim’s home to pick up the cash for delivery to the alleged bank.
In an unknown twist, if a victim becomes suspicious in either con, they are told to call the bank or police to verify the caller’s story. What the victim doesn’t know is that the conman can stay on the line since it is left open after the first call. While the victim thinks they are talking to a law enforcement agent or an employee of the bank, they are actually still speaking to the conmen.
Toni Aslett, 70, from Downers Grove, Illinois, lost $11,000 to the police impersonators. She was called by a man who claimed to be a detective. He warned her that her debit card had been cloned and was being used by thieves. Twice she called 911 after the call, but was told each time the warning was legitimate. During the week before Christmas, she was persuaded to make three withdrawals and hand the money to a courier. Realizing she had been swindled, Aslett contacted her bank but it has so far refused to help restore her account to the full balance. Aslett was caught in a loophole because she had gone to the bank and withdrawn the money herself. “There was no bank error regarding the withdrawal…,” said a bank executive.
As long as the internet is around, there will be cyberhackers and cyberhacking. Using extra precaution and double checking can help a person from becoming a victim.
By Jerry Nelson