Scammers are now saving their victims the trouble of sending extorted money or shipping precious metals. The FBI warns that criminals arrange for couriers to meet their victims in person, and senior citizens are their prime targets.
FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released an advisory warning that scammers are using couriers to pick up cash and precious metals. This adds a personal touch to scams such as tech support or government impersonation.
The uptick in this activity in the US resulted in losses exceeding $55 million from May to December 2023.
Criminals arrange for couriers in the second part of various scams when the victims, many of whom are senior citizens, have already been convinced to liquidate their assets into cash or gold, silver, and other precious metals “to protect their funds.” Then, couriers meet the victims in person to pick up the parcels, adding a sense of legitimacy.
As reported by Cybernews, scammers have many ways to convince seniors to part with money or personal information.
“Scammers pose as tech support or US government officials. Scammers sometimes use a multi-layered approach, posing, in succession, as a technology company, a financial institution, and a US government official (e.g., the "Phantom Hacker" scam). Scammers inform victims their financial accounts were hacked or are at risk of being hacked, and, as a result, their funds need to be protected,” the IC3’s announcement reads.
Fraudsters then instruct victims to obtain cash or precious metals by liquidating their assets or even wiring funds to a metal dealer, who will ship the precious metals to victims' homes. Once victims obtain liquid assets, couriers come to retrieve the items.
“Scammers may direct victims to authenticate the transaction with the courier using a passcode, such as the serial number of a US dollar bill. 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,” IC3 said.
How to protect yourself?
The public service announcement includes a list of recommendations that help prevent scam incidents:
- The US government and legitimate businesses will never request you purchase gold or other precious metals.
- Protect your personal information. Never disclose your home address or agree to meet with unknown individuals to deliver cash or precious metals.
- Do not click on unsolicited pop-ups on your 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.
The FBI requests that victims report these fraudulent or suspicious activities to the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov as quickly as possible, including as much transaction information as possible:
- The name of the person or company that contacted you.
- Methods of communication used, including websites, emails, and telephone numbers.
- Any bank account number(s) to which you wired funds and the recipient name(s).
- The name and location of the metal dealer company and the account to which the funds were wired.
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