A computer hacker infiltrated a phone scam operation and exposed how fraudsters lay out their schemes to swindle unsuspecting people across the world.
The hacker, going by a pseudo name “Jim”, unearthed how online scammers pose as “certified technicians” to gain access to people’s computers, then their bank accounts, and then trick the users to willingly send money to them to avoid being noticed by banks.
“It doesn’t matter if you are 95 or 15, they will say whatever they need to say to get as much money out of you as possible,” Jim told AARP in an interview.
“They say reassuring phrases like ‘Take your time, sir,’ or ‘Do you want to get a glass of water?’ And they will also try to endear themselves to older people, saying things like, ‘You sound like my grandmother,’ or ‘You don’t sound your age—you sound 20 years younger.’”
In his investigation, Jim discovered that scammers based in India had found a way of using a remote-access software program called TeamViewer without being detected or blocked by the app’s developers.
The developers of TeamViewer had discovered that criminals in India were abusing their software, so they temporarily banned its use from computers initiating connections from India. But there was a loophole: It didn’t stop scammers from asking U.S. and U.K. consumers like Jim to initiate access to computers in India.
To scam people, these crooks fake the identity of someone with authority to coerce money out of their victims, according to U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 2020 reports.
Consumers over age 60 were about five times more likely to report losing money to a tech-support scam in 2020 than those age 20 to 59, according to the FTC. They have invested heavily to take down tech-support scammers, resulting in more than 900 arrests in the U.S. in the past three years.
There are several ways people can protect themselves against these scammers. These include:
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Scammers usually pretend to be from an organization you know. They could say they are contacting you from the government or a state agency such as the IRS or Medicare. Some pretend to be from a business you know such as a utility or tech company, or even a charity asking for a donation. To avoid these kinds of scams it is always good to counter-check with the official contact of the said organization.
Scammers always want an action — granting them access to your computer or sending money — to be done with urgency. They do this by asking you not to hang up the phone while doing the said activity or they use threats such as arrest or a lawsuit. Do not be pressured to do anything over the phone.
Legitimate organizations never call, email or text to ask for your personal information such as social security, bank account, or credit card numbers. Always countercheck any request for such details using the official phone number or email of the organization.