Don’t Get Scammed

When an organization posts a scam alert on their home page, you know that they must have gotten a lot of inquiries and complaints about the matter. That’s why The Global Privacy Enforcement Network has posted an alert at the top of their home page https://www.privacyenforcement.net/. According to the FTC, people are getting calls ostensibly from GPEN claiming that their computer has been compromised and is sending fraudulent messages. Of course, they never provide any information. If you ask any questions, they either threaten legal action or provide a number to the FTC or GPEN’s web address. Although the numbers and website are actually genuine, the callers are lying about the FTC and GPEN. Neither the FTC nor GPEN is monitoring anyone’s pc, and no one is going to be pursuing legal action over (imaginary) emails.  (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/official-sounding-calls-about-email-hack)

Impersonation scams cost individuals and businesses billions of dollars each year.

This reflects a huge issue. Impersonation scams cost individuals and businesses billions of dollars each year. The FBI reported in the beginning of June 2016 that they have received thousands of complaints just about tech supports scams, with losses totaling $2,268,982 in the first four months of 2016. Since many people never contact the FBI, there is no doubt that the real total cost is even higher than that. The IRS estimates that people lost $41 million in 2015 to IRS impersonators. By the time you add up all the different impersonation scams, it’s close to $3 Billion each year.

The scammers are quite clever in how they go about their business, whether they are impersonating the IRS, a technology company or another organization. They use carefully prepared scripts that depend on people’s reasonable fears, the use of pressure and misleading statements to mislead people. Add threats such immediate arrest and it’s not surprising that intelligent people fall victim.

There is some good news in all this doom and gloom. It really is possible to protect yourself. You do need to educate yourself (and your workforce, if you are employer.) And you do need to stop these conversations at the outset.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • There is no legitimate organization that monitors all computer activity for spam, viruses, “privacy violations”, etc. Anyone who tells you that their “engineering group”, “monitoring service” or other entity has alerted them to problems with your computer and they are reaching out to you to help you, is lying.
  • If someone who calls you about a supposed problem or to help you with a refund (or any other issue that requires filling out a form) asks you to download a program or to take control of your computer, hang up the phone.
  • No government agency nor legitimate business is going to ask you to pay a fine or fee in iTunes cards, “Green Dot” or MoneyCard cards, or any sort of gift card.
  • Government agencies like the IRS and policy organizations like do notinitiate contact with taxpayers via a phone call, and certainly not a phone call demanding money or immediate action with the threat of legal action if the person on the phone does not immediately comply.

The FBI’s full Public Service Announcement can be seen here:  https://www.ic3.gov/media/2016/160602.aspx

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