2 New Scams are Making the Rounds
Within the last month, I've received calls from clients asking me about the legitimacy of an email they've received. There are actually two similar ones out there that I know of (and lots of variations), and I can tell you they are far from legit. In fact, they are downright dangerous, financially speaking.
They go something like this: You get an email from a well-known company, like Amazon, saying that your account has been hacked, a thief has bought a new iPhone with it, and we've locked your account down. They ask you for access to your computer so they can "unlock" it for you. While in your computer they see your account information, and who knows what else. They also tell you that in order to fully unlock your account, you'll need to run a transaction of some kind. In order to do so, you are directed to go to Target or Best Buy and purchase $500 gift cards to send to them.
A similar scam goes like this: You get an email from a well-known antivirus company saying that they are going to renew your annual subscription for $400. You email them back saying No! The next day they send you an email saying that they've already charged you $400. You call the number for customer service and they apologize. In fact, they say they'll refund your credit card right now. Next thing you know, they're saying that they made a mistake and accidentally refunded you $4000. "Please send us $3600 to make it even again."
You've got to be kidding, right? Who would fall for these requests? It turns out, many people. Before we get too judgmental about the victims, I want to point out that the scammers' techniques have gotten a lot more sophisticated. You ask for proof that they're really calling from, say, Amazon. They tell you to look at your caller ID and google the phone number. Sure enough, it's Amazon's number. (It's a caller ID trick called spoofing. It only looks like they're calling from the number.) When you share your computer screen with them, and they show you a charge from, say, Norton Antivirus on your credit card account, it looks real. It's not. They've prepared an image to look like your account. And to top it off, the scammer's voice is so reassuring and nice. They are very convincing.
How do you defend yourself against the scammers? Here are some rules to remember:
1. If you get a call from a familiar company telling you there's a problem. Hang up, look up their phone number from their actual website, and then call it. Ask if there's a problem.
2. Organizations like banks, Amazon, and Norton will not ask you for access to your computer to show you things. They will not ask you for your passwords either. (Note: A tech support company may ask you to share your screen, but that's fine--you called them.)
3. Don't click the links in suspicious emails. Don't return voicemail calls from the phone numbers they called from. If they are bogus, that lets the scammer know they've got a live one on the line, and they will hound you.
4. If you're suspicious, check out Snopes.com for list of common scams and hoaxes. If you think you've been scammed, call your credit card company or bank immediately. You'll find an 800# on the back of your card that'll be answered 24/7.
Scams are nothing new. They're not even new to the computer age. As always, we need to be vigilant, but not scared. When approached, it's okay to conduct your due diligence. You owe it to yourself. You are the one in control.