Taking back the ID

Fraudsters misuse the area code 833 to steal PII

Carson Wagner received a pop-up screen, supposedly from Microsoft, on his computer that told him a virus was downloading malware, and he must call an 833 area-code telephone number to fix the problem. After he called the number, the recorded message told him to upload personally identifiable information (PII), including his name, address and bank account transfer number, which the fraudster said he’d use to refund money lost from the downloaded malicious malware. Unfortunately, Carson provided the PII. A week later he discovered that his bank account had a zero balance.

This case is fictional, but it represents a common example of an 833 area-code scam. Many individuals and businesses use the 833 area code and others to easily register toll-free numbers. Scammers and spammers will robocall phone numbers and leave voicemails to ensnare targets. But they’ll also insert pop-ups or ads in websites onto devices and computers to lure would-be victims to call the numbers or send emails. Victims are often fooled because they’re curious, and they’ve been conditioned to respond to 800 area-code numbers.

Fraudsters contact victims by gaining their PII from public phone directories or by finding victims on social media sites, including Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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