WASHINGTON - The FBI is warning that online scammers are getting more personalized in their approach, sometimes even sending in-person couriers to your door.
The federal law enforcement agency this week issued a warning about how scammers are using couriers to steal cash and other valuables from unsuspecting people – mostly senior citizens – who fall victim to "tech-support and government impersonation scams."
The first part of the scam involves swindlers posing as "tech support or U.S. government officials." They tell victims that their financial accounts were hacked, or are at risk of being hacked, and that their funds need to be protected.
The victims are told to liquidate their assets into cash and/or to buy "gold, silver, or other precious metals to protect their funds," the FBI said in the notice. Sometimes, scammers instruct people to wire funds to a metal dealer who will ship the precious metals to victims' homes.
Criminals then arrange for couriers to meet the victims in person – either at their home or public locations – to pick up the cash or precious metals, the agency added.
FILE - A person knocks on a door in Landsdowne, Pennsylvania, in a file image dated Nov. 1, 2020. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
"Scammers may direct victims to authenticate the transaction with the courier using a passcode, such as the serial number of a US dollar bill," the FBI warned.
"Scammers tell victims they will safeguard the assets in a protected account on behalf of the victims. In reality, victims never hear back from the scammers and lose all their money," the agency added.
The FBI said it saw an "uptick" in these cases between May and December of last year, with aggregated losses of over $55 million.
Using an in-person tactic is a different approach for scammers, who usually "hide behind the veil of the Internet" or remote countries, Chris Pierson, the CEO of cybersecurity firm BlackCloak, told USA Today.
"This is a total changing of the play book," Pierson added, since the individual could be caught on video during the act.
How to protect yourself from tech-support scams
The U.S. Government and legitimate businesses "will never request you purchase gold or other precious metals," the FBI said.
The agency encouraged consumers to protect their personal information. Never disclose a home address or agree to meet with unknown people to deliver cash or precious metals.
Other tips shared by the FBI:
- Do not click on unsolicited pop-ups on the computer, links sent via text messages, or email links and attachments.
- Do not contact unknown telephone numbers provided in pop-ups, texts, or emails.
- Do not download software at the request of unknown individuals who contact you.
- Do not allow unknown individuals access to your computer.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.