FBI warns of new scam: millions of Americans could become victims - ForumDaily
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FBI warns of new scam: millions of Americans could become victims

The FBI warns that millions of people could lose money as a result of a new scam. The publication told the story of one of the victims of scammers and how to protect yourself News Week.

Photo: IStock

It was just a normal day for Sarah, a 23-year-old North Carolina resident, when she received a call from an unknown caller on her phone in January.

His number matched the area code where she recently lived. As Sarah, who asked to be identified by a false name, was waiting for a response from her apartment about the damage from the burst pipe, she responded immediately.

What happened next was a nightmare and a lesson for those who think they can easily avoid scammers.

“I answered the phone and there was a man saying he was from the Clemson Police Department and that I was in trouble for not showing up for a court hearing,” Sarah began her story.

Today, she doesn't answer calls from unknown numbers and knows the police would never call her if they were going to arrest her for any reason. But she is just one example of how easy it is for scammers to infiltrate your life and take your money through payment transfer apps.

On the subject: Dozens of people around the world have committed suicide because of scammers

The man on the phone went into detail about why Sarah was in trouble. He explained that she acted as a witness in the case of her partner and that he had the full name of that partner.

Since Sarah did not know her neighbor very well and had recently graduated from university, she believed the supposed policeman when he said that she would face a fine of $2000 for failing to appear at the meeting. After all, the man spoke exactly the way she thought a Southern policeman should speak.

“It was all very confusing and I panicked because the man threatened to arrest me if I didn’t pay a $2000 fine. I was so confused because I had never been in trouble before, I had just started my first job and I was very afraid that I might lose it because of it. Beside myself with fear, I was ready to do anything to make it all end quickly,” she said.

Sarah spent more than five hours on the phone with this person because her bank could only transfer $500 through the Zelle payment transfer app.

Sarah ended up giving away the rest of the money through gift cards she received after graduating from university.

“I don’t know why I acted so stupidly, but after five hours I was emotionally exhausted and didn’t understand anything,” she explained.

She said the man on the phone looked like a cop, not a scammer, and “he had an answer for everything.”

When Sarah finally hung up, she realized what had happened: she had just given away all her graduation money to a scammer and was $2000 poorer.

According to the FBI, millions of Americans could be affected by similar schemes using peer-to-peer (P2P) payment applications. As payment apps like Venmo and Zelle grow in popularity, scammers are using these platforms to gain access to people's bank accounts and rob them.

Zelle estimates that by the end of 2023 the total number of users will be 67,8 million, and this figure will only grow.

“Although P2P payment services are easy to set up, easy to use, and generally secure, it is important to remember that criminals may try to trick you into sending money,” the FBI said in its warning.

It was previously thought that older adults were most at risk of losing their money to digital scams, but according to a new report from the Better Business Bureau's Market Trust Institute, people ages 18 to 24 are losing more to these scams.

The average dollar amount lost among young adults was $200, which is $50 more than the average dollar amount lost among people age 25 and older. The smallest monetary losses were recorded among people aged 55 to 64 years - $123.

How to reduce your risk and avoid becoming a victim of fraud

One common scam is to get a call from someone who says they work at your bank and wants to alert you to “suspicious activity.” If a person asks you to send money to yourself or to a bank address to cancel a transaction or check if your account is frozen, this is a sure sign that you may be dealing with a scammer.

Banks will never ask you to transfer money to anyone, not even themselves, but criminals can use this tactic to get their hands on your money.

Another common strategy by scammers is to say they represent the fraud department and ask you to confirm your bank account username and password, as well as your credit or debit card number or Social Security number.

Once they have this information, scammers can create a P2P account with your details, steal your identity, and gain access to your account.

Fraudsters often “accidentally” send money to a P2P platform and then ask for it back. If this happens to you, you should not send money back, but rather contact the platform and find out the possible error.

Since criminals typically use stolen funds, the service usually flags such deposits as fraudulent. If you send money back, the platform may hold you liable.

In general, the FBI recommends that Americans only use platforms like Zelle or Venmo to connect with friends and family and not send money to people or companies they don't know.

Also, if someone tells you that you need to pay immediately, don't be persuaded. They often try to make you panic so that you won't realize in time that it's a scam.

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Don't let anyone use your phone and only call your bank using the number on your card or account statement. Online bank phone numbers may not be accurate.

It's also a good idea to set up alerts so you're aware of any large transactions involving your accounts.

When it comes to phone numbers associated with scams, the FBI says full 10-digit numbers tend to be scam numbers. Banking institutions usually send SMS only from a short five-digit code and do not include a link in the text.

You should also be wary of using P2P apps on public Wi-Fi or mobile hotspots, the FBI said.

Those who have already fallen victim to P2P payment fraud should immediately report it to the P2P payment platform and contact their bank. The FBI allows you to file an online report through its Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov).

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