Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: A warning about reverse instant payment scams

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center recently issued a warning about an increase in payment scams. The victims appear to receive an SMS from a bank’s fraud alert service. The text asks if the customer has initiated an instant money transfer using digital payment apps connected to a bank.

For for example, a text might say – Bank Fraud Alert – Have you attempted an instant payment of $5,000? Answer, Yes or No, or 1 to stop alerts.

The amount of payment and the financial institution may vary from victim to victim. You may even receive different texts claiming to be from different banks because the scammers are hoping to guess your financial institution.

If the victim answers, they receive a phone call that appears to come from the bank’s legitimate 1-800 assistance number. Criminals may know an old address, your social security number, and the last four digits of your bank account. This information is used to convince you that the steps requested are the financial institution’s legitimate process to stop this money transfer.

Once the scammers have you hooked, here’s how they steal your money. Using the bank’s legitimate website or app, the scammer will ask victims to remove your email address from their digital payment app and replace it with an email address controlled by the fraudsters.

Once the email address is changed, the cyber crook asks the victim to initiate another instant payment transaction for themselves, which will cancel or reverse the initial fraudulent payment attempt.

Unfortunately, the victims actually send instant payment transactions from their bank account to an account controlled by the criminals. Victims often only realize they’ve been scammed after checking their bank account balance.

The FBI recommends the following precautions:

Beware of unsolicited requests to verify account information. Cyber ​​actors can use email addresses and phone numbers that appear to be from a legitimate financial institution. If a call or text is received regarding possible fraud or unauthorized transfers, do not respond directly.

Instead, contact your bank’s fraud department via verified phone numbers and email addresses on official bank websites or from the back of your credit or debit card, never via text message or an email you receive.

Beware of callers who provide personally identifiable information, including social security numbers. Unfortunately, there have been so many large-scale data breaches over the past decade that criminals may know some of your personal data.

Your best protection, enable multi-factor authentication for all financial accounts and do not provide these codes to anyone.

If you have been the victim of online fraud, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.


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Elaine R. Knight