In today’s technology driven society, cybercrime and related scams are on the rise. It seems that every day, there is a new report about scams involving everything from the Publishers Clearing House, to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Furthermore, fraudsters and cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated as more effective technology becomes available allowing these criminals to target potential victims.
Like many, I always assumed that I was “too smart” to fall victim to any sort of scam or tactic. I found out the hard way that I was wrong.
On Easter Sunday, I spent the day with the people I care about. As a result, I had not been checking my cell phone. Once I returned home, I noticed that I had a couple of missed calls from the number listed on the back of my debit card. “That’s weird,” I thought to myself. However, since my son had school the following morning and I had to prepare for work, I cast the missed calls to the back of my mind and went about getting bath time in order and finding clothes for the following day.
Then my cell phone rang indicating that I was receiving a telephone call from my bank. I answered the call and found myself talking to a very kind man explaining that he wished to go over some possible fraudulent charges from Florida that had been flagged on my account. I had received similar calls in the past and I gladly obliged, thankful for my bank’s diligence. This man knew all my information. He knew my email address, he knew my cell phone number (obviously), he knew the last four of my check card number, the last four of my social and he knew my address. With this false sense of trust, I agreed to change my pin number at the man’s request to avoid future fraudulent charges on my account.
When I hung the phone up, it hit me – that sinking feeling that settles in the pit of one’s stomach when something just isn’t quite right. With alarm bells ringing in my mind, I logged into my online banking and discovered that all the money from my savings account had been transferred into my checking account. I immediately called the bank’s Fraud Department. In the time it had taken me to do that, nearly $500 had been removed from my account due to fraudulent charges. In less than five minutes, I had managed to lose almost $500. It took two months to get the money back.
On March 28, I went to my local bank and reported the fraudulent charges and opened a new savings account. I was told by my bank that I would receive paperwork in the mail. On April 5, I received correspondence from the Fraud Department stating that my claim had been closed and that the charges had not appeared on my account (They had). I called the fraud department that day and on April 7, I filled out the appropriate paperwork at my local branch which was faxed to the fraud department. During the week of April 19, I had to return to my bank and fill out the paperwork once again which was sent to the Fraud Department. By April 26, I had received no response from the Fraud Department. After a phone call to the Fraud Department, I was told that I would receive a call from a case manager. The case manager failed to contact me. I returned to my bank on May 3 and a bank manager called the Fraud Department and I was once again told that a case manager would call. Again, no one called. I called the bank again on May 5 and was told for the third time that a case manager would call. Once again, I did not receive a phone call. Surely, you can understand my frustration at this point?
Realizing that the fraud department was doing little to resolve the issue, I filed complaints online with the Federal Reserve Consumer Help and with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). It seems that filing a complaint was effective. On Friday, May 20, I received a call from the bank manager stating that the money had been replaced in my account.
According to PCWorld this type of scam is, “A new kind of identity theft scam, with thieves using easy-to-obtain VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) telephone numbers to trick Internet or telephone users, is beginning to pop up, said a cybersecurity vendor…. In the new scam, which Secure Computing calls “vishing,” identity thieves ask potential victims to call a phone number attached to a VoIP account, easily obtained online through services such as Skype or through retailers reselling VoIP products such as Vonage Holdings, Henry said.” This is only one tactic that is used. My research revealed numerous tactics and software available for cybercriminals.
My point is, learn from my mistake. Be on guard when you receive a phone call even if the call is coming from a number that is legitimately associated with your bank or other institution. If you find yourself the victim of this type of fraud, contact your bank and be persistent. If the issue is not resolved, contact the Federal Reserve at www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov or the FDIC at https://www.fdic.gov/consumers/assistance/index.html.