10 lies scammers tell to separate you from your money

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Gift card scam robs DFW couple of thousands

Gift card scam robs DFW couple of thousands 05:03

New York Magazine financial columnist Charlotte Cowles made waves last month with an article revealing that she’d been scammed out of $50,000. While some people were sympathetic, others criticized the author for falling for what even she herself admitted seemed like an obvious, if highly elaborate, con.

With scams on the rise, now often abetted by artificial intelligence, government watchdogs want people to be aware of the language fraudsters typically use to dupe their victims. The Federal Trade Commission lists 10 lies fraudsters often use to separate you from your money. Here’s what to watch out for.

Act now! A common tactic scammers use is to pressure you to act immediately — whether it’s to send them money, buy a gift card or provide them with personal information. That sense of urgency is always a sign someone is trying to rip you off, the FTC says.

Only say what I tell you to say. Scammers may instruct you to lie to someone, such as a spouse, financial adviser or even your bank. Don’t fall for it. 

Don’t trust anyone — they’re in on it. The scammers who ripped off Cowles told her that, although she’d been the victim of an identity theft scheme serious enough to land her behind bars, she shouldn’t tell her husband about the situation. As the FTC notes, cybercriminals want you to feel isolated and unable to turn to someone who might tell you to pump the brakes.

Do [this] or you’ll be arrested. “Any threat like this is a lie,” the FTC says bluntly, adding that any suggestions that you could go to jail or get deported unless you fork over some money or information is a surefire scam. 

Don’t hang up. Yep, a scam. Con artists may ask you to stay on the phone while you buy a gift card or withdraw money from the bank so they can monitor what you’re saying and talk you out of backing out of the transaction. 

Move your money to protect it. It may seem obvious, but instructions from a total stranger on the other end of the phone telling you to move money from your bank or investment accounts to anywhere else is a scam, according to regulators. 

Withdraw money and buy gold bars. Really? Afraid so. The FBI has warned about scammers telling victims to cash out their assets and buy gold, silver or other precious metals. Don’t fall for it.

Withdraw cash and give it to [anyone]. If you’re sensing a trend, you’re onto something. Never hand over cash to anyone no matter who they claim to be. “Don’t give it to a courier, don’t deliver it anywhere, don’t send it,” the FTC warns.

Go to a Bitcoin ATM. Cryptocurrency-related scams are surging, according to the Better Business Bureau. That includes ripoffs in which you’re encouraged to transfer your funds into cryptocurrency or withdraw money using a Bitcoin ATM.

Buy gift cards. Fraudsters have gotten creative in how they exploit the well-documented vulnerabilities around gift cards. Sometimes that involves stealing barcode and PIN information so they can make unauthorized transactions, but more commonly it means asking their victims to pay for something using a gift card. And once they have the PIN numbers on the back of the card, you can kiss your cash goodbye.

As for what you should do if you come across any of these phrases in the usual places where scammers lurk, that’s easy: Don’t respond. 

“Hang up. Delete the email. Stop texting. Block their number — anything to get away from them,” the FTC says, which also urges people to report possible scams to the agency at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Alain Sherter

Alain Sherter covers business and economic affairs for CBSNews.com.

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