In a recent Chicory Wealth team meeting, one of our members shared the news that a relative had been the target of a phone-call scam where the perpetrators pretended to be FBI agents, saying this person was a victim of identity theft and their family members were also victims. The person was told to wire a large sum of money as part of the FBI’s operation to catch the criminals and that they could not tell any family members about it without jeopardizing the case.
We’ve all heard of such scams and perhaps think we would never fall for one. But these perpetrators are very good at what they do, and can have an uncanny ability to play into our emotional vulnerabilities. The people in this case also had fake FBI agent numbers and a fake phone number that matched the FBI numbers online and in the phone book. These criminals were so convincing, the victim ended up wiring – and therefore losing — a large sum of money.
As we discussed this in our team meeting, two other members reported that they also had family members who had been targets of similar schemes. We realized just how common these events are, and how easy it is to fall prey to them – whatever your age.
Red Flags for Potential Scams:
- You receive an unsolicited phone call or some other communication, claiming to be a government official such as an FBI or IRS agent, a friend of a grandchild or other relative, an official informing you about a lottery or other type of winning, etc.
- There is a sense of urgency in the communication, demanding that you must act immediately or something will happen (someone will be hurt, you’ll be arrested, you’ll lose money, etc.).
- You’re told to tell no one about the communication. If you are on the phone, they might tell you to walk away from anyone else in the vicinity so the call can’t be overheard.
- You are asked for personal information, gift cards, checks, or money. Never provide this without a thorough investigation and verification with someone other than the person contacting you. Remember: federal law enforcement will never call or email people to demand money or threaten arrest.
- You receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from someone you know, asking for gift cards, money, or personal information. Always verify through another method whether the email is actually from the person you know.
- There is more information about potential threats, how to protect yourself, and how to report any suspicious behavior on this (REAL AND VERIFIED) FBI webpage. We encourage you to read it.
Chicory Wealth Security Precautions:
- The security of our clients is our utmost concern, and we have many procedures and systems in place for protecting them, including regular trainings on these procedures.
- One of the procedures we have in place is that we NEVER take an authorization for a money movement from a client via email. If a client does email with a request, we ask them to call in. When the client calls, we verify their identity with a series of questions.
- One of the benefits of having a small practice where we know all our clients well is that we will likely be familiar with their needs for funds. If we get an unusual request, the advisor will talk to the client to make sure they understand the nature of the request – this helps avoid scenarios like the one described above.
- We will also NEVER ask you for personal or sensitive information via email. If you ever receive an email from one of our team that looks even slightly suspicious, please call our office to confirm its legitimacy.
- We have hired an outside company — Advisor Armor – to help us create robust security for our technology, identify any vulnerabilities, and maintain the highest quality of our systems.
We wanted to share this story and these tips for protecting yourself – not to scare you – but to inform you and give you tools for dealing with these scams, if you happen to be approached. Many times these communications will start out with an emotional connection, making it harder for the victim to say no, be impolite, say they need more information, or simply hang up. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself in such situations. If you have any questions or concerns, we are always here to help.
NOTE: Maggie Kulyk’s October 15 webinar will discuss security issues and how to avoid scams like these. Find out more HERE.
Photo above by Neonbrand from Unsplash.