'Geek Squad' email scam targets vulnerable seniors

Ron Hurtibise, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in Business News

Seniors have long been targets

Online scams targeting seniors have existed for as long as seniors have been going online. Years ago, the Nigerian prince scam convinced victims that the senders were heirs to a ruler who needed someone in the United States to hold onto their fortunes — if victims sent money to prove they could be trusted.

Dating scams targeted lonely widows and widowers with promises of companionship but left them with lower bank balances.

Then came the pop-up technical support scams that locked up victims’ computers until they subscribed to virus cleaning or malware removal software they didn’t need.

The newest scams are descendants of those, but rely on victims’ familiarity with legitimate services.

The goal is the same: to gain control of victims’ computers and ultimately their money. And once money is transferred, there’s little any bank or law enforcement agency in the U.S. can do to help get it back.


When Belz received the email stating that $392.95 was charged to her credit card, she followed her first instinct. “I called and said I can’t to afford to renew for that much. I want to cancel.”

Next she received an email from the scammers saying they mistakenly refunded $4,900 to her credit card and she needed to call to arrange to return the overpayment. “I called them right back to find out how to reimburse them.”

She was told to download a program called Team Viewer and type in credentials that gave the scammers control of her computer. They quickly opened her web browser and found her bank account link saved among her favorites. When they accessed that website, her login credentials were already filled in.

All they had to do was click the login button. And they did, immediately accessing her account and withdrawing $1,000 via the instant money transfer app Zelle.


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