A phishing email scam recently cost a rural Clinton woman $10,000. Her loss is yet another demonstration of how persuasive these fake emails can be, and the kind of pressure those behind the emails bring to bear on victims to accomplish their frauds. The most recent victim of these phishing emails is a senior citizen, let’s call her Mrs. H.
Mrs. H. received an email from the Geek Squad. A lot of folks might recognize the term Geek Squad, and recognize it as a support arm of the consumer electronics retailer, Best Buy. Mrs. H.’s email informed her, Geek Squad just renewed her membership, to the tune of $429.79, and helpfully included a toll-free phone number to call for “any administration or conditional issue?” The email alarmed Mrs. H. She didn’t know anything about this membership. She called that help number.
The technician she reached agreed to refund the money, but he needed access to Mrs. H’s computer, and to reach her online banking. The technician instructed her how to allow him access to the computer, and showed her how to set up a transaction to deposit funds to her bank account. But something went wrong. After the transaction, the technician showed Mrs. H., she deposited $14,297. He demanded the money back. He verbally started turning on the screw on her, making demands, threats, and accusations. All this pressure compelled Mrs. H. to do what he told her.
She went to her bank. The technician armed her with a cover story to give the teller, if questioned. He demanded she stay on the phone. She withdrew $10,000 in cash, wrapped it in foil and duct tape, and sent it to a Texas address by UPS. The next day, the technician demanded another $10,000, because the first parcel, “got cancelled”. More yelling and threats. Mrs. H. withdrew another $10,000. But know she disobeyed orders from the technician. She told a family member what she did. That stopped the fraud, and saved Mrs. H. from sending the second parcel out.
Talking about it now, Mrs. H. is in disbelief she fell for the pressure. She’s the first to admit she missed warning signs and red flags, and made mistakes.
This email looked like it came from Geek Squad. That outfit seems popular with scammers right now. Amazon also gets a lot of use by scammers. But a several months ago, it was Norton Anti-Virus. Soon, it will be something else. These phishing emails show some common features:
– They use the name of a well-known business or agency.
– Read them carefully and you will see grammar and typo errors.
– They inform recipients of a charge or purchase, but the account or credit card charged is never described.
– The email concludes by offering a “help” number to call for details or to cancel.
If you receive such an unexpected email, NEVER. CALL. THE. NUMBER. Receiving such emails causes us to worry someone is up to no good, but we have better options for checking it out. Use your online banking and check your bank or credit union account, look for recent charges. Or call your bank. Check your credit cards online, look for charges. Many banks and credit card providers allow customers to set up notifications whenever charges of a certain threshold hit the account. Use those services. Talk to other people. You don’t need to react immediately, and you don’t need to figure this out on your own.
CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIME
Let me know about scams, fraud, or other crookedness you run across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs. Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 242-9211, Ext. 4433, or email me at email@example.com
Randy Meier is the director of Seniors vs. Crime, which operates in conjunction with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office.