Tech support scams now use couriers to collect victims’ money


FBI

‚ÄčToday, the FBI warned about courier services being used to collect money and valuables from victims of tech support and government impersonation scams.

This public service announcement follows a surge of reports regarding criminals using couriers to collect cash or precious metals like gold or silver from victims (many senior citizens) whom the scammers instructed to sell their valuables.

“The FBI is warning the public about scammers instructing victims, many of whom are senior citizens, to liquidate their assets into cash and/or buy gold, silver, or other precious metals to protect their funds,” the FBI said. “Criminals then arrange for couriers to meet the victims in person to pick up the cash or precious metals.”

While some scammers choose to impersonate tech support workers or U.S. government officials, they’ve also been spotted masquerading successively as employees of technology companies, financial institutions, or the U.S. government as part of the complex scheme.

They’ll claim that the targets’ financial accounts have been compromised or are under imminent threat, prompting the victims to liquidate their assets as a protective measure.

The victims are often coerced into converting their assets into cash or precious metals or directed to wire the funds to metal dealers who will ship the purchased metals directly to the victims’ residences.

The scammers then arrange for couriers to meet the victims at their homes or in various public locations to retrieve the money or precious metals. To further legitimize the fraud, the criminals may also provide the victims with a passcode to authenticate the transaction with the courier.

Scammers also promise to keep victim’s assets in a secure account but disappear and leave them without their funds. This elaborate scheme targets vulnerable individuals, often senior citizens, and has already resulted in significant financial losses for countless victims.

“From May to December 2023, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) saw an uptick in this activity with aggregated losses of over $55 million,” the FBI warned.

How to protect against scam attempts

To defend against such fraud schemes, the FBI advises never to send gold or other precious metals to legitimate businesses or U.S. government organizations.

At-risk individuals should also never share their home addresses or meet with strangers to send cash and other valuables following requests made over the phone.

The FBI also shared the following tips to significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to similar fraud attempts:

  • Do not click on unsolicited pop-ups on your computer, links sent via text messages, or email links and attachments.
  • Do not contact unknown telephone numbers provided in pop-ups, texts, or emails.
  • Do not download software at the request of unknown individuals who contact you.
  • Do not allow unknown individuals access to your computer.

Victims of such scams are urged to report the scammers to the FBI immediately and include as much information on the criminals as possible (e.g., their names, the method of communication, the bank accounts they used, the name of the metal dealer used to buy the gold sent to the scammers via courier services).

In October, the FBI warned of a surge in “phantom hacker” scams impacting the elderly, with estimated victim losses of over $542 million between January and June 2023.”

One year before, it cautioned scammers impersonating financial institutions’ refund payment portals to trick victims, particularly older people, by taking advantage of the organizations’ perceived credibility.

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