With Summer and all the highly-anticipated blockbuster movies quickly receding behind us, it’s time to trade in the expensive nights at the theater and move toward the hidden-gem search of locating your favorite movie on a streaming service and kicking back in the recliner. I took my own advice recently and re-watched Ocean’s Eleven. After all, who doesn’t like a classic American heist movie? And while movies like Ocean’s Eleven or The Thomas Crown Affair may keep me wildly entertained and at the edge of my seat, they also serve as a realistic reminder of the modern-day cyber con artists we deal with at Thirtyseven4 and that their disgusting tactics (and order of operations) don’t change.
Exploit the weak and vulnerable
Mr. Jones, age 71, was enjoying a peaceful dinner at home with his wife when his home phone rang. Upon answering it, a gentleman with a foreign accent (“Frank”) began asking him questions about his computer. Mr. Jones started his story by matter-of-factly declaring that he was “not dumb to obvious scams”. But Mr. Jones had an ear to hear as the caller spoke because (ironically) just earlier that day, he had experienced trouble with their computer.
After about 20 minutes of pleasant conversions, Frank recommended and Mr. Jones agreed that for $7/month, his organization would remote into their system and run performance checks and routine maintenance.
Remain patient and build up trust.
Once a month (for 5 months!), Frank would give Mr. Jones a call and provide detailed computer health updates. Mr. Jones noted that Frank was polite and would routinely call him by name. More importantly, during this time, he witnessed improved performance and stability on his PC, as he resumed his normal computer habits- he noted- banking, bidding on eBay, etc. He admitted being satisfied with the service and attention he was receiving from Frank.
Let the victim win at first.
A few weeks before I started this column, Mr. Jones received his anticipated, monthly call from Frank. However, on this day, Frank would break the news to him that his technology consulting company was going out of business and was entitled to an $150 refund. Though confused, Mr. Jones proceeded. With a relationship solidly established, Mr. Jones allowed Frank on to his system one last time so that together Frank could deposit the newfound $150 into his account.
Build sympathy and create a false sense of power.
While the transfer of money was happening, Mr. Jones noticed that instead of $150.00 getting directly transferred into his account, Frank “accidentally” deposited $15000. Upon seeing the wrong amount, he quickly called the typo to Frank’s attention. Frank tone changed and he became frantic.
Change the tempo to create urgency to complete the heist.
Mr. Jones recalled Frank acting scared and repeatedly expressing how his organization was going to sue him for the full $15,000, and how it would cost him his house, his job and possibly his family. Frank pleaded with (Mr. Jones) to authorize the $15,000 transfer back to the account immediately to reverse what was done. At this point, Mr. Jones said “no”, and that he would head to the bank to get the situation resolved for Frank.
By ending the call and saying no to Frank’s urgent request, Mr. Jones was fortunate. He drove to his bank the following morning and explained the situation. As the banker investigated his accounts, the banker explained how Frank didn’t receive any outside money into his account at all, the $15,000 he saw transferred over to his checking account was moved from his own home equity line of credit. Frank had invested months into this con job in hopes to trick Mr. Jones into laundering his own money to achieve his payday.
Whether it’s a phone scam, web scam or Phishing scam, the unlawful tactics used by cyber con artists are not only increasing exponentially in number but are becoming more involved with higher consequences.
The above story about Mr. Jones is true. And while it can be easy to pass judgement or lack of judgment on him, his experience is shared by tens of thousands of computer users a year. Cyber con artists are relentless and the cybercrime “business” is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
It’s better to watch actors and actresses in a heist movie instead of being one of the actors in your own real-life movie. But when it comes to cyber con artists leave your computer’s security to a trusted professional/product, trust your gut.