In the year 2014, you can be safely tucked inside your own home and a con artist will find you. He’ll be so convincing, you’ll either hang on the line or return the call.
“It’s very hard to ignore,” said Kathy McCafferty of Fairview Park. She knows how persistent identity thieves can be. She complained to Ohio’s attorney general about the harassing phone calls that wouldn’t stop ringing at all hours of the night.
The calls began coming shortly after McCafferty had paid off her credit card.
She told FOX 8 Call for Action Reporter Lorrie Taylor she knew there was no balance left to talk about and yet– when a voice on the other end of the line suggested she hold on to hear important account information, she did.
“There was a real urgency to the call that made you feel, made me feel, like it might be an emergency situation,” said McCafferty. “You know it was vague, but your mind wanders.”
That sense of urgency is the calling card of a master con artist, according to online security experts. It’s how a criminal lures a potential victim onto the phone and convinces them to share personal information, like social security or account numbers.
“The overall pretext that you need to do this urgently because something bad has happened to your assets or something bad will happen to your assets is generally very common,” said Spencer McIntyre from SecureState in Bedford.
McIntyre is a recognized expert in internet security who, along with his colleagues, developed software to show corporate clients the phishing schemes for which their employees were falling for.
“A lot of people want to protect themselves, whether it be their jobs, their assets or their reputation,” “McIntyre said, as he explained why so many victims take the bait of an identity thief.
He told Taylor self-preservation– that most basic of all instincts– can be dangerous.
“If we send an email, saying that it’s from their boss, and they’re in trouble and they absolutely have to drop what they’re doing and address our concern by going to a website and logging in, they’re generally going to do that because they don’t want to get in trouble with their boss,” said McIntyre.
He said it’s common for companies to publish employee directories online, complete with email addresses. That makes it easy for bad guys to contact unsuspecting individuals. McIntyre said the sham email that gets them every time is the one claiming to be from H.R.
Other popular schemes that trick people into providing their account and social security numbers are:
1. The phony IRS inquiry that appears to have been sent by the government.
2. Anything that appears to be from a bank.
3. A foreign diplomat or businessperson who offers a percentage of their fortune if the recipient will allow the money to be funneled through their U.S. bank account.
McIntyre told Taylor, now more than ever, with data being stolen from major retailers, it’s important for consumers be on their guard.
“We do know that it increases whenever companies are breached because emails are leaked,” he said. “And when those emails become public knowledge then the spammers and the phishers that are trying to put these types of attacks together have more targets to go against.”
The good news for Kathy McCafferty is that no one was able to take advantage of her. Whoever was on the other end of that urgent call was disconnected just as they came on the line. McCafferty said she’s through falling for urgent calls that don’t seem to add up.
“It’s aggravating to be so disturbed when you’re in your own home,” she said.
The phony credit card call McCafferty couldn’t get rid of is one of several listed on The Federal Trade Commission’s website.
CLICK HERE for a complete list of scams to avoid.