Ready Wisconsin, the state’s national public service advertising campaign, has released the list of top five cyber scams of the past year, in recognition of Cyber Awareness month.
Auto Sales Fraud: Last year, more than 17,000 people were scammed more than $64 million when they tried to buy automobiles online. The scammers attract potential buyers by offering vehicles at below market prices. The scam is there is no vehicle. They refuse to meet in person or allow an inspection of the auto prior to sale. To make the deal appear legitimate, the criminal instructs the buyer to wire full or partial payment to a third-party agent via a wire transfer service, and to fax the payment receipt to the seller as proof of payment. The criminal pockets the money but does not deliver a vehicle. In a new twist, the criminals have attempted to pose as dealers instead of individuals selling a single car. This allows them to advertise multiple vehicles for sale at one time on certain platforms and attracting more victims. Total losses nationwide: $51.5 million.
Romance Scams: Sometimes finding love can not only break your heart but also your bank account. Perpetrators scout the Internet for victims often through chat rooms, online dating sites and social media networks. These individuals seduce victims with small gifts, poetry, claims of common interest or the promise of constant companionship. Once the scammers gain the trust of their victims, they start asking for money. Last year more than 6,000 victims lost more than $81 million in these romance scams.
FBI Scams: Perpetrators attempt to intimidate victims in emails by purporting to be high ranking government officials. Many scams exploit the FBI name or the names of FBI executives such as the current FBI Director, James Comey, and FBI former Director Robert Mueller, both of which had terms as the FBI’s Director during 2013. There were 4,391 complaints reported in 2013 that referenced both FBI Directors. The FBI specific schemes typically remain the same as scammers just update their scam verbiage to reflect the current FBI Director’s name. FBI impersonation schemes pose a viable threat to national security by undermining public trust that directly impacts law enforcement’s ability to do its job. Government agencies do not send unsolicited e-mails of this nature. While FBI, Department of Justice and other United States government executives are briefed on numerous investigations, they do not personally contact consumers regarding such matters. United States government agencies use the legal process to contact individuals. These agencies do not send threatening letters or e-mails to consumers demanding payments for Internet crimes. Total losses nationwide: $6.4 million.
Real Estate Fraud: These include rental scams where criminals take information from legitimate homes for sale ads and post it with their own email addresses on housing rental lists. Potential renters are then instructed to send money via a wire transfer service and in some cases fill out credit applications asking for personal information and social security numbers. Also beware of Timeshare and Loan Modification scams. In 2013, there were over 10,000 victims that lost $18 million in real estate online fraud.
Intimidation/Extortion Scams: There are many of these types of scams including one where victims receive phone calls allegedly claiming to be legitimate software companies. The victims are told that malicious software (malware) has been detected on their computer. The criminal urges the victim to log on to their computer where they appear to demonstrate how the computer is infected. They then offer to rid the computer of malware for fees ranging from $49 to $450. More than $10 million was lost last year in these scams.