“This is Alex, calling you from the refunds department…”
“This is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. You must call us back…”
“This is the Internal Revenue Service. You must call us back…”
“Your computer is dead. You must telephone us to fix it and recover your info…”
Ever receive such a message or one pop up on your screen? Have you been scammed or know someone who has?
A computer engineer based out of Ireland who goes by an alias, Jim Browning is a true hero. When he learned someone close to him was swindled out of money, he got curious. The next time scammers called him, warned him that his money and his computer were in danger, he turned the tables on the thugs!
First he got into their computers. Then he took control of their office cameras. He continues to record of their actions, online and physically. When he can, he warns their prey before they lose their life savings.
This post is a departure from my usual bookish, artsy, cooking, travel, pet-loving type. When I read of this information in AARP Bulletin, I wanted you to know about it — and to pass it along to everyone you know who might be vulnerable to scammers or who knows others who could fall victim. Those over 60-years-old are five times more likely to be hit. Here the New York Times also covered these types of crimes in depth.
DIY: Protect Yourself & Others
If anyone calls to say you — or anyone else is — in grave danger unless you mail cash or gift cards (and most likely even instructs you to not discuss it with anyone):
- Hang up on them. If they left a message, erase it.
- Definitely don’t call them back.
- Never, under any circumstance, mail cash or gift cards.
- If there’s some remote chance you believe they might be legit, ask them to first mail something to you.
- Never deal with people who want your money and prohibit you from telling your bank, your store, or anyone you know.
If your computer flashes alarm lights, locks up, or beeps at you while a message urges you to telephone a number:
- Don’t touch your phone!
- Instead, turn off your computer, wait a few minutes, then turn it back on.
- If it isn’t as good as new, take it to a reputable repair place such as a computer store.
Below, in four video segments, Jim shares what he learned. For more on him and his findings, check out his YouTube channel.
What do you know about scammers? Have you been scammed or know someone who has?