Taking Back the ID

Telephone and phishing scams taking their toll

Duke Winston's friends called him a digital freak because he spent most of his non-working time on his devices chatting with friends via his social media accounts and shopping on the Internet. He thought he was pretty savvy about emerging cybercrimes until one day he went online to check his banking transactions and noticed a recent withdrawal of more than $4,000 that wiped out his account balance. His bank told him the transaction seemed to be legit. Regardless, the bank covered the loss because Duke obviously had been victimized.

'Wrong number' telephone scam

Duke was a victim of a new telephone scam called "wrong number" that Scambusters recently reported on. Fraudsters know that we sometimes get rushed and make mistakes when we dial telephone numbers. So they've purchased hundreds of telephone numbers, including those of the toll-free variety, that are similar to common business numbers — except for one digit. Their goal, of course, is to steal personally identifiable information (PII) and use it to rob organizations of their resources.

The fraudsters link a fraudulent telephone number to a recorded message that mimics the name of the company that the potential victim thinks he's dialing. The message tells the caller to key in his bank or credit card account number and, if required, a PIN number and/or security code. The new victim is put on hold waiting in the mythical line to talk with a service representative. Of course, the hold never ends and, during this time, the fraudster cleans out the victim's bank account or maxes out his credit card.

In another version of this scam, a fraudster might set up a bogus telephone number directly or include it in a link on a fake website of a legitimate retailer or card company. When the potential victim uses Google to key in the name of a real company and "customer service" to do a search for its telephone number, he instead gets the bogus one. Thinking it's real, the caller is victimized if he uses it. Game over!


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