As we all become more wary of scams, it only makes sense that the criminals behind them find new ways to scam us. On Monday, the FBI sent out a public service announcement warning the public about one such scam that has been on the rise (via Bleeping Computer).
Scammers posing as tech support agents and US government officials are telling unsuspecting victims their bank accounts have been hacked, so they need to liquidate their assets. According to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), scams like this resulted in aggregated losses of over $55 million between May and December 2023.
In order to sell the scam, the bad actors will sometimes call a victim multiple times successively, posing as a different entity each time. For instance, they first tell the victim that they represent a technology company. They’ll then call back, posing as a bank employee or government official, to scare the victim into believing their account has actually been hacked.
Once their victim has taken the bait, they will “instruct victims to liquidate their assets into cash and/or purchase gold, silver, or other precious metals” or “wire funds to a metal dealer who will ship the precious metals to victims’ homes.”
Finally, after the victims confirm that they have the cash or the precious metals, the scammers will send couriers to their homes or meet them in a public place to collect the items. They tell the victims that they will hold onto the money for safekeeping. Needless to say, once the money has changed hands, the victims never hear from the scammers again.
Countless red flags are raised throughout this process, but only a single target has to fall for the scam in order for the criminals to turn a profit. As such, the FBI has shared a list of tips to protect yourself if and when you are ever solicited by a scammer:
- The US Government and legitimate businesses will never request you purchase gold or other precious metals.
- Protect your personal information. Never disclose your home address or agree to meet with unknown individuals to deliver cash or precious metals.
- Do not click on unsolicited pop-ups on your computer, links sent via text messages, or email links and attachments.
- Do not contact unknown telephone numbers provided in pop-ups, texts, or emails.
- Do not download software at the request of unknown individuals who contact you.
- Do not allow unknown individuals access to your computer.
If you suspect you are being scammed, you can file a complaint about fraudulent or suspicious activities on the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website.