Americans lost over $6.9 billion to cybercrime in 2021, according to the FBI Internet Crime Report. Although people over the age of 60 made up more than half of victims, targets of fraud are getting younger. In fact, in 2022 Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zs ended up being more likely than seniors to report fraudulent money loss thanks to some of the newer scams.
Regardless of age, everyone needs to be aware of the slimy ways con-artists sneak into bank accounts. They work through phone calls, texts, emails, social media and sometimes, even in person. No matter the avenue of attack, victims can easily face financial devastation.
DeKalb County Sheriff Nick Weldon issued a warning to residents because of one particular scam that’s been going on for years locally.
“What the scammers do is send a message through Facebook, Messenger or e-mail, but it will appear to be from one of your friends,” explained Weldon. “The friends’ accounts have been hacked, and the victims receive messages that they have won money but have to pay the taxes on the winning amount. We have had multiple victims send payment for alleged taxes to fraudulent overseas accounts. Please talk to your family members and make them aware that this is a scam and any taxes owed would be paid directly to the IRS
“Please talk to your loved ones and encourage them to never give out any kind of personal information unless they know exactly who they are talking with,” Weldon said.
Here are some other popular scams being used.
1) With the rise of cryptocurrency, the popularity of long-game cons has risen. The most popular of these is referred to as the “Pig Butchering” scam.
The beginning seems innocent. You are lured into conversation either through social media comments that move to private messages or, more commonly, through a “wrong number” text. The message will usually refer to a planned dinner or meet-up, baiting you to respond to them. They’ll apologize and play the victim of being stood up and played by someone they recently met, easing you into a friendly conversation. This is known as “fattening the pig.” They’ll briefly mention investing a small amount in crypto and feeling silly about it because they KNOW what a joke it is, then they’ll change the subject. A couple of weeks or a month later you get an excited text asking if you remembered them mentioning it. They’ll excitedly tell you about how shocked they were that it wasn’t a joke and they’ve made a killing in profits and they’ll offer to send you a link to the app for investments. The app looks real, and even has faux security features sometimes and lures you with “micro-investments” of as little as $5. Once you deposit the small amount, it will show growth over several days, prompting you to invest more.
Although all investments are risky, there is very little protection when it comes to cryptocurrency, especially
especially when the investments can be made through a cash transfer account such as cash-app. These avenues don’t have the fraud protection like a credit card would have.
Always be suspicious of random internet or phone encounters who attempt to initiate a personal relationship. If they start talking about investments, that’s your red flag to immediately cut off all communication.
2) With all the news of student loan forgiveness, the confusion surrounding it has been a magnet for scammers. Always make sure the website begins with https:/ and ends in .gov.
There have been several fake sites made to look like official federal loan services that will offer loan consolidation, lower payments or a fast-track to forgiveness (for a fee of course). Simply filling out the application online gives the scammers all of the information they’d ever need to destroy your life — your social security number, your ID numbers, financial information and more.
Never follow links from unsolicited emails or pop-ups and avoid speaking to anyone who contacts you claiming to be your loan provider. Hang up and contact them directly from your billing statement or through their official website.
3) If you have things listed for sale in online marketplaces, these scammers will contact you posing as an interested buyer. Using the phone number listed in the ad they will set up a Google Voice account. They’ll then contact you and they’ll explain how they’ve been scammed in the past purchasing things through the marketplace and for security reasons, they’re going to send you a verification code.
Google automatically sends a verification code to the telephone number listed in set-up. If you share it, that scammer can now start using a new phone number that has no connection to their identity.
Remember, if Google ever sends you an authorization or verification code, it is for YOU only and is connected to your account and name. There is absolutely no reason anyone would ever need those codes shared with them.
4) Another scam targeting online sellers is the “accidental overpayment.” The buyer will ‘accidentally’ add an extra zero or two to their payment through a payment app using a stolen credit card. They’ll request a refund paid directly to their own bank account, so they don’t have to wait several days for the refund to go through. Once the actual credit card owner reports the fraud, the money comes out of YOUR account.
If you pay a scammer through Zelle, Venmo, or Cash App, it’s basically the same as handing them cash. Those transactions are more or less irreversible.
5) Since Covid-19 began a remote working trend, several fraudsters have developed work-from-home scams, either by fake job postings requiring you to provide personal information or to send money to cover expensive supplies and training. Sometimes they’ll impersonate recruiters and reach out directly to users on job sites such as LinkedIn. Once you fill out the application sent to your email, rather than landing that amazing job you were offered, you have your identity stolen instead.
6) Rental con-artists will steal photos of rental units that don’t belong to them and create their own ads for them. They’ll either steal your information with a rental application or take it a step further and request an immediate down payment due to the overwhelming interest in the unit, promising it can be refunded if you change your mind. They’ll allow you to sign through e-mail and wire the deposit and rent. Insist on in-person meetings to tour the unit unless it’s through a well-known rental company with a secure website.
Falling for scams like these doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent. It just means that you were taken advantage of. Be wary of ‘time-sensitive’ offers that you didn’t ask for and think before you click. If someone asks for information, before just handing it over, stop and ask yourself why they would need it.
According to the FBI, everyday tasks – like opening an email attachment, following a link in a text message, making an online purchase – can open you up to online criminals who want to harm your systems or steal from you. Preventing internet-enabled crimes and cyber intrusions requires each of us to be aware and on guard. Here’s how:
• Keep systems and software up to date and install a strong, reputable anti-virus program.
• Create a strong and unique passphrase for each online account you hold and change them regularly. Using the same passphrase across several accounts makes you more vulnerable if one account is breached.
• Do not open any attachments unless you are expecting the file, document, or invoice and have verified the sender’s email address.
• Be careful when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network and do not conduct any sensitive transactions, including purchases, when on a public network.
• Avoid using free changing stations in airports, hotels, or shopping centers. Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices that access these ports. Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet.
Protect Your Money and Information
• Examine the email address in all correspondence and scrutinize website URLs. Scammers often mimic a legitimate site or email address by using a slight variation in spelling. Or an email may look like it came from a legitimate company, but the actual email address is suspicious.
• Do not click the link in an unsolicited text message or email that asks you to update, check, or verify your account information. If you are concerned about the status of your account, go to the company’s website to log into your account or call the phone number listed on the official website to see if something does in fact need your attention.
• Carefully scrutinize all electronic requests for a payment or funds transfer.
• Be extra suspicious of any message that urges immediate action.
• Make online purchases with a credit card for an extra layer of protection against fraud.
• Do not send money to any person you meet online or allow a person you do not know well to access your bank account to transfer money in or out.
If you are the victim of an online or internet-enabled crime, file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) as soon as possible. Rapid reporting can also help support the recovery of lost funds. Visit ic3.gov for more information.
Receive a suspicious message? Report it to the Federal Trade Commission so they can help protect others.