EXETER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It seems we are warned all the time about phone and email scams but some are more clever than others.
A newer one making the rounds these days has turned a Luzerne County woman’s life into a high-tech nightmare. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller explains what happened and how to avoid becoming the next victim.
“I got a phone call on my iPhone and it was from someone identifying themselves as an Apple representative,” said Ann Mikols.
The caller had a warning for her.
“They told me that they thought one of my credit cards was breached,” she said.
But the Exeter Township woman wanted proof it was actually an Apple representative.
“He told me to look on my phone and look at the phone number and look at the Apple website and of course the phone numbers matched.”
Ms. Mikols fell victim to what’s called spoofing which tricks caller ID to display false information. So she agreed to the caller’s recommended fix: allow him to remotely take control of her laptop to increase her account security. Instead, the scammer gained access to her credit cards.
“They were able to charge over $1,000 purchasing gift cards from Walmart on three of my credit cards,” Ms. Mikols.
He also hacked her email account to retrieve her emails and contacts. Ms. Mikols said, “It’s just incredibly scary. I mean I’ve treated this like identity theft and I still am. I mean I still have a lot of rebuilding to do.”
One of Ms. Mikols’ contacts is her neighbor Rita Wall who said, “I got the same call almost that Ann got. But I knew from talking to her and I wasn’t too nice on the phone and I can’t repeat what I said to them.”
What happened to Ms. Mikols and what a scammer attempted to do with Ms. Wall is create a sense of urgency: that you need to take action immediately to prevent a problem when in fact it’s actually creating a pretty big one.
“Every day someone’s coming up with new scams,” said Luzerne County Detective Chaz Balogh.
He said these scams can fool even the smartest individuals in a vulnerable moment. His advice if you get a call like Ms. Mikols? Hang up and make the call yourself.
“Even if the caller provides a phone number, don’t trust that number. Actually physically look up the number of the company, in this case Apple, and you would verify that the number is correct,” Detective Balogh said.
It’s expert advice to help you avoid becoming the next victim.
“Everyone is at risk here and I think the word just has to get out again and again and again,” said Ms. Mikols.
For more contact information:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
TTY: (888) 835-5322
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
TTY: (866) 653-4261