Until we got the third call in one week for this scam, I couldn’t believe it was true. Sadly one client was taken for almost $10,000. She needs to take out a loan so that she can pay her living expenses. How this all came about is interesting, but more important, anyone who’s been a previous victim of a tech support scam could be scammed again.
This scam actually started months ago. It starts with someone who has been taken in by a previous tech support scam. I’ve written about it before, but in a nutshell a scammer convinces you to pay to fix a fake problem on your computer. It’s usually a yearly cost of anywhere between $250 and $800. They’ll keep asking for more money until you stop.
Re Victimizing the Victim
The new wrinkle is the scammers call the client back and apologize. Yup. They own up to it being a scam and offer a refund. Cool! At this point the victim is caught off guard. Then instead of just refunding the money on the victim’s credit card, the scammer needs bank information. They’ll offer to remotely connect to the computer to help out. That’s not the scam though. The goal is to obtain banking information to transfer the money in. Sounds good so far right?
Here’s the scam: they claim to have transferred too much. Maybe it was an error, maybe it was the exchange rate, but they get the victim to believe they need to refund about $10,000. If you refuse, they’ll call the police and try to freeze your account. They’ll insist on this. To fix the problem, they need gift cards. This tactic is a variation of a fake check and advance fee scam.
How the Money Got Lost
In fact, the scammers never sent the money. They won’t do anything to your bank account. However, they’ve scared the victim at this point. The victim is led to believe they’re stealing money from the kind scammers who tried to refund the money. The scammers tell the victim to take out the $10,000 in cash from the bank. Then they’re instructed to buy gift cards to places like Target or Wal-mart. All the victim needs to do is read the numbers to the scammer over the phone and that will act as a refund. Except of course for some reason the scammer will probably say the cards don’t work. They’ll want more money. The scam stops when the victim runs out of money.
Our most recent client was saved because her mobile phone ran out of power. The scammers stayed on the phone with her the entire time, threatening to lock her account if she hung up. So she went from the bank, then to Target, and then to Walmart all while the scammers were on the phone.
Financial Protection Policies Failed
Department stores and banks are instructed to ask people questions when making such a large withdrawal. Our client wasn’t asked at the bank. They just let her take out the $10,000. She’s never made a cash withdrawal at the bank. I’ve later found out the bank apologized for not following procedures. Although they won’t take responsibility, they’ll let her take out a loan to restore the money. Translation: they’ll make money off her loss instead of being responsible. Sickening.
Target asked her why she wanted a $10,000 gift card. Store policy says they can only create gift cards up to $3,000. Target did ask, and she said they were for grandchildren. The problem is sending gift cards to grandchildren is a type of scam department stores are warned against. Here’s a great story about how Target followed policy and saved victims from the scam. Two of our victims this week were stopped by Wal-Mart or Target from buying gift cards. However, again one was not and is out the $10,000.
Unfortunately our client was not covered by insurance for the loss. Some clients have been able to use their insurance as victims of tech support scams. In all cases, the Lawrence Police department refused to take a report. That directly contradicts statements made by the LPD in this article. When I was a victim of credit card theft, they refused to take a report as well. I was told that I couldn’t confirm the theft was local.
Here’s what everyone needs to know about this type of scam.
(whether someone calls you or you call them based on message on your computer or phone)
- Never allow someone to remote control your computer that you don’t know, regardless of the circumstance. The only exception is us of course, but we will never initiate a call to you and always give you the option for an on-site computer repair. If you’re unsure, check with us.
- Never give out passwords or other identifying information to people you don’t know. If you’re unsure, check with us. This includes stuff like your birthday, mother’s maiden name, and social security number.
- Nothing is urgent. Your computer won’t self-destruct or lock if you fail to take action immediately. Give us a call first.
Banks and Department Store Employees
Please follow your policies. Realize these scams happen right here in #LFK. Ask people point blank “Are you being told to send this money by a company?” Train yourself and your staff on common scams
Get a real job. Use your skills to help people instead of steal from people.
As a reminder, please gives us a call if you’re unsure about a message on your computer. We’ll help you at no charge over the phone. Whatever you do, don’t allow someone to control your computer and do stuff to it unless you’ve properly vetted them.
Photo by Tax Credits