Robocalls are sounding less and less robotic and in some cases, scammers are using new strategies to convince victims to hand over their money. Already this year, the Federal Trade Commission received over 165,000 reports of imposter fraud in which innocent victims lost a total of nearly $152 million.
In one particular incident a woman was defrauded $340,000 when she answered a call from a man claiming her identity had been stolen. The victim followed instructions to transfer her money into other accounts. The call lasted multiple hours and the scammer even asked the victim to leave work, stay in a hotel, and keep quiet to family and friends. The perpetrator said that secrecy was necessary for the integrity of the identity-theft investigation.
In another case, an elderly woman was tag-teamed by two criminals. The first caller claimed he was from the Social Security Administration, and the victim believed him because the agency's number was on the ID screen of her phone. According to the scammer, the woman's account had a problem and he needed money to fix it so she could receive her monthly benefit payment. The victim received a follow-up call from an accomplice posing as an FBI investigator who also needed money to pursue the case. The victim lost her life savings of over $80,000.
It doesn't take much research for fraudsters to find out a phone number and a few other pieces of personal information that they can use to complete the puzzle of a person's identity. When crafting their scheme, criminals only need enough data to be convincing when they call. Fraudsters prey on fear and other base emotions but they start with facts the victim can't refute.
Takeaways: Attempts to steal information can come in a variety of often creative ways. Ignore calls from unknown numbers. If you receive a phone call that raises concern, wait before reacting. Rather than let your emotions guide your response, be wary of who people say they are and process the situation before you act on a whim. Many scammers tell their victims to remain on the line and keep quiet – these kinds of clues are red flags.
One of the best fraud mitigation strategies is to remove personal information that is sold online. Read the case study to learn why reducing your digital footprint is a smart way to stay one step ahead of fraudsters.