PITTSBURGH, Pa. (WKBN) – Federal authorities have tracked down two people from California who investigators say preyed on the elderly in a computer scam.
Thien Phuc Tran, 32, and Ton Huynh Bui, 29, both of Santa Ana, California, were indicted on April 26 and arrested Thursday.
According to the indictment, the two suspects are related by marriage and worked to infiltrate computers to steal from unsuspecting victims, investigators said. The multi-million scheme involved contacting victims through pop-up messages and falsely purported to be from reputable technology companies. They convinced the victims that their financial accounts had been compromised, ultimately gaining control of the victims’ financial account information.
Some of the stolen funds were then converted to cryptocurrency and moved money through multiple accounts. One victim lost their retirement account totaling over $1.2 million.
“Cybercriminals are targeting our aging population at an ever-increasing rate,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall. “This conspiracy targeted members of the senior population in western Pennsylvania and across the United States. In some cases, these criminals have stolen the life savings of unsuspecting and trusting seniors through social engineering, computer intrusions and other means. The FBI will continue to work to put an end to these types of cyber schemes and help prevent our senior citizen population from becoming victims.”
Six of the most common scams affecting older Americans are:
• Tech Support: Scammers pose as tech support and offer to fix computer problems that are not real. They ask targets to give them access to their computer and steal their personal information.
• Posing as Utility Companies: The scammer threatens to shut off utility service if a payment is not made immediately.
• Online Shopping: Scammers pretend to be a real business but have a fake website or a fake ad on a genuine retailer’s site.
• Business Imposters: Scammers send emails or text messages pretending to be a major retailer to get your money or personal information.
• Government Impersonation: Scammers pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute targets unless they agree to pay an amount claimed to be owed to the government.
• Romance Scams: Scammers pose as interested romantic partners and convince targets to give them money for various fictitious reasons.
The best way to avoid being exploited is to NEVER give out personal or financial information over the telephone or by email or text in response to a solicitation. Victims of financial fraud are encouraged to call the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-372-8311.
To learn about types of financial scams visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts or www.elderjustice.gov/senior-scam-alert.