Arrgh! Con artistry hits work

There is an old-school type of fraud, conducted by phone, that’s the old-world equivalent of the “phishing” emails you get all the time. You know the ones I mean–the emails that say “There has been a problem with your online banking/your online PayPal account/your eBay account/whatever, please click here to confirm your identity.” And then you click there, and you’re taken to a Web site that looks like your bank site, or PayPal, or eBay, and you type in your bank account number or your username and your password, and Wham! You’ve just given your information to Russian organized crime!

The old-school variant is the same thing but on a more personal, more individual level, from con artists who believe in age-old, hand-crafted fraud, not this soulless, mass-produced fraud we see so much of today.

In the old-school, hand-crafted variant, the con man calls you up on the phone and says “Hi there! I’m John from Bank of America. Bad news! We think someone just tried to use your bank account fraudulently! Did you just order $2,000 worth of rare wine to be shipped to an address in Hong Kong?”

And you freak out and your heart starts pounding and you sa “No! No, I didn’t! Oh no! What do I do?”

And he says “Relax, don’t worry, we thought it was fraudulent, we’ve put a freeze on your bank account. And then you’re all like “Phew! That was close!” while visions of bounced checks and ruined credit dance in your head. And then he says “OK, we’ll reverse the charge and unfreeze your account. For security, we need you to confirm that you’re the real bank account owner. What’s your social security number? What’s your bank account number? What’s your debit card number? What’s your PIN?”

And he’s hoping you’re so freaked out that you’ll just gullibly tell him.

This kind of fraud fell out of favor a while ago when folks invented caller ID, because (a) the con man doesn’t want to give out his caller ID number and (b) people get suspicious when they get calls that are supposedly from the bank but it says “caller ID blocked.”

They’re making a comeback, though, since it is now cheap and easy to fake caller ID numbers. The con men put fake caller ID numbers–usually random 1-800 numbers (because people think “oh, if it’s coming from an 800 number it must really be my bank!”) that are not really the bank’s numbers (because the con artist doesn’t want folks calling the bank to confirm the story) into a gadget or computer program that fakes what you see on your caller ID.

So today, apparently there’s a con artist who’s rapid-fire calling dozens of potential dupes…

…and is forging our phone number on his caller ID spoofer.

So folks are calling us (a LOT of folks are calling us) and screaming at us–“How dare you try to get my bank account number, you motherless sons of flea-infested goat herders!”

They are savvy enough to realize that the call is a dupe, but gullible enough to believe that the number they see on the caller ID is actually the number that the con artist is calling from.

*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*