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Skillman Resident Swindled for $15,000

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted January 12, 2023

Montgomery police responded to a Skillman residence regarding a computer scam on December 2. The victim said she received a message indicating a virus had infected her computer. The message directed the victim to call a phone number for Microsoft Technical Support.

Upon calling, the victim was informed that her phone service was compromised and there was an issue with her banking account. The victim was directed to transfer a sum of money via cryptocurrency, and did so, resulting in a loss in excess of $15,000.

The FBI is warning the public to beware of tech support scammers targeting financial accounts using remote desktop software. As tech support fraud evolves, the number of people falling victim to the crime is on the rise, and so are financial losses. Investigators are seeing an emerging trend in which tech support scammers are convincing victims that their financial accounts have been compromised and their funds need to be moved so the fraudsters can gain control over the victims’ computers and finances.

In tech support scams, fraudsters pose as customer or tech support representatives from reputable well-known tech companies. They may call, email, or text their targets and offer to resolve such issues as a compromised email or bank account, a computer virus, or a software license renewal.

Once they convince victims that their financial accounts have been compromised and their funds need to be moved, they gain control over the victims’ computers and ultimately their finances. Victims are often directed to wire or transfer their funds out of brokerage or bank accounts to cryptocurrency exchanges, or to transfer the contents of their crypto wallet to another wallet to “safeguard” the contents.

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Fraudsters will create fictitious support sites to entice crypto owners to contact them directly and convince them to divulge login information or surrender control of their crypto accounts. Scammers are also asking victims to install free, remote desktop software on their computers to allow them to monitor, manipulate, and perform actions within the victims’ computers such as opening virtual currency accounts to facilitate the liquidation of their genuine bank accounts.

“Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new ways to rip off unsuspecting consumers, and this latest tactic has resulted in staggering losses. In some cases, we’ve seen victims lose their entire life savings, which is why we are urging everyone, especially our aging family members and friends, to heed this warning,” said FBI special agent Joseph R. Bonavolonta.

Legitimate customer and tech support representatives will never initiate unsolicited contact with customers. They will not demand immediate payment or request payment via cash, prepaid gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency either.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3), which provides the public with a means of reporting Internet- facilitated crimes, there has been a steady increase in losses by victims in a wide-variety of tech support scams in the last five years.

Nationwide, in 2021, 23,903 people reported losing more than $347 million due to tech support scams, which is a 137 percent increase in losses from the previous year. Most victims, almost 60 percent, are reported to be over 60 years old, and have experienced 68 percent of the losses.

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