FAYETTEVILLE – FBI officials in Arkansas say cybercriminals have begun targeting victims in a scam involving personal computers, a threat to breach social security accounts and cryptocurrency.
“We’re seeing a rise in this piece of fantasy about an old scam,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Kevin Curlew said in an interview.
“The victim will receive a pop-up on their computer informing them that a virus has been detected and asking them to call that number,” Curlew said. “If they call, they are told their computer is infected with viruses and they are victims of identity theft and need to get a new social security account.”
Curlew said that once the scammers have a victim online, they are told a Social Security officer will call them. The scammers then “fake” a number that appears to come from the social security administration and tell the victim to close all their bank accounts and transfer their money in bitcoin.
“Several victims have called to say they have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars from their life savings,” Curlew said. “They go to the bank and transfer their bitcoin money and deposit it in a wallet. If we can be notified within a few hours, at most 24 hours, there is a chance that we can get the money back, but if too much time passes it is almost impossible.
Curlew said the growing popularity of cryptocurrency made it almost inevitable that those involved in this type of criminal activity would incorporate it into scams.
Local law enforcement said they have received reports of similar schemes, but the use of cryptocurrency is new. The Fayetteville Police Department has received at least one of these reports, according to the sergeant. Anthony Murphy, public information officer for the ministry.
Murphy said the department advises people to be wary of anyone contacting them by phone claiming they are from a government agency and asking them to provide information or money.
“Social Security wouldn’t call anyone to ask for funds,” Murphy said. “If you are suspicious, hang up and call the entity they claim to be calling from. Use common sense. If it looks dull, it probably is.
Veronica Taylor of the Social Security Administration’s Dallas area public affairs office said the agency recently issued fake scam warnings.
“While scammers mostly use phone calls as part of their scam, they can also use email, SMS, social media or mail in the US,” Taylor said. “They pretend to be Social Security and say there is a problem or a price. They also try to pressure people to act immediately ”.
“Generally, if a person has no ongoing business with SSA, they are unlikely to call them,” he said. “If a person gets a suspicious call claiming to be from Social Security, he should hang up and report it to our inspector general’s office.”
“A common tactic used by scammers is to impersonate federal agents and other law enforcement officials,” Taylor said. “They can claim that a social security number is linked to a crime. They can also threaten to arrest the individual if he does not comply with the instructions given. The recipient of the call simply hangs up. If an individual owes money to Social Security, we send him a letter explaining his rights, payment options and information on filing an appeal against the decision. “
According to information from the FBI, criminals offering fraudulent cryptocurrency investment services have become common enough to prompt the agency to issue an investor warning. According to the FBI, the office has identified at least 244 victims of this type of fraud, with losses estimated at over $ 42.7 million.
Curlew said anyone looking for more information or needing to file a complaint can go to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov or call the Little Rock office at (501) 221-9100. .