Sneaky New Way Scammers Rip Off The Unwary

I just hung up from a phone call with a good friend and colleague, Cheryl, with whom I’ve given workshops and trainings. She explained that her 80 year old, recently widowed father was the victim of a sneaky new variation on the “computer tech support” scam. This is the one where the scammers call and pretend to be Microsoft’s or some other tech firm’s support desk. The standard pitch is that they found some sort of virus or other problem with the victim’s computer, and they want money and personal information to fix it.

What’s new and sneaky about the story she told me is that this time the crooks said they owed her father a refund to get his information. Notice how this works around the dead giveaway for a scam of someone asking for money? The scammers claimed to be from “Microsoft Office” and set the trap with a claim of a problem with his computer. Apparently they took control of his computer for 1.5 hours (plenty of time to gather all the information they needed about security settings, usernames, passwords, etc.) and then said they needed his bank routing number and Social Security number to process his refund. Sadly, he provided this information because they were trying to give him a refund rather than charge him for their “assistance.” My friend said her father is on guard for anyone asking for money, but they got to him with the promise of money.

Remember the 5 FLAGGS of scam victimization? If you’re unfamiliar with them, they are the 5+ emotional levers the criminals use to manipulate their victims. (listen to our Scammercast episode about the FLAGGS here)The scammers hooked Cheryl’s dad with fear of a computer problem and a little touch of greed in his desire to receive a refund. I suspect loneliness played a role here, too, since the crooks talked to a recent widower.

Please pass the word to your friends, family, colleagues, and clients about this new twist and together we can “Hammer the Scammers!”

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