Woman spends more than $3,000, she says
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A woman wishes she had listened to her instincts before hackers convinced her to buy more than $3,000 in gift cards to unlock her Facebook business account, she told the 8 News Now Investigators as the FBI warns consumers about similar schemes.
The woman, who asked the 8 News Now Investigators to conceal her identity, runs a business and uses Facebook to advertise. An unsuspecting email ended up leaving her vulnerable not to just one, but two different hacking operations.
“I just couldn’t even believe that there were 48 complaints about my business,” the woman said about an email she received last fall.
She could not believe it, because it was not true.
“It didn’t look fishy to me,” she said about the email, which turned out to be a scam. The woman clicked the link, which eventually had her changing her Facebook password.
“After I changed my password, my Facebook account started appearing in another language,” she said.
She then started getting emails in that other language and lost access to her Facebook account. Then, as many of us would, especially with a lifetime to her business in jeopardy, she started to search for help.
“I googled how to report a hack on Facebook,” she said, finding a phone number on Google for what she thought was for Facebook.
“It seemed like I had reached a support person,” she said.
But that person was another hacker who then scammed her out of more than $3,000 in gift cards. The man told her to download an app to her phone, which gave him access to it. The man said he was searching for the hackers, but in reality, he was attempting to steal her information for her social media and bank accounts.
Soon, he had her driving around to stores like Target and CVS, buying the gift cards.
“And then they gave me specific instructions to go inside — to buy a gift card,” she said. The woman bought the gift cards and then took photos of the cards and the secret code on them, granting the hackers the money.
“I was out of my mind,” she said. “Honestly, my mother was dying, and I was not in a good state of mind.”
It’s an all-too-common scam that the FBI told the 8 News Now Investigators is getting out of control.
“We get dozens of complaints a day,” a Las Vegas-based FBI supervisory special agent said, adding hackers love small business owners who fear the consequences of getting locked out of their accounts.
“Anytime you see something, and it gives you pause, do some research,” the agent said.
The FBI warns consumers to be aware of the authenticity of any suspicious email or alert: Companies will not suddenly demand access.
“Facebook is not going to ask you to get gift cards,” the FBI agent said.
“They need to have a responsibility to the public if they’re going to be serving the public to protect us as well,” the scam victim said, adding Facebook and Google should do more to make sure this kind of double-headed scam does not happen to others. She believes it is unfair her account was compromised in the first place.
“I was fooled,” she said. “You think you can trust a search that you look up for customer support and it wasn’t customer support at all. So, what is the lesson? Don’t believe everything you read or see? I’m not really sure.”
A Google spokesperson encouraged consumers to remain cautious.
“While sometimes there is not much high-quality content available on the web for a specific query, Google’s systems are highly effective at surfacing high-quality information and fighting spam, scams and malicious behavior across ‘Search,’” the spokesperson said. “Our advanced spam-fighting systems keep our results helpful and 99% spam-free for the billions of queries we see every day on ‘Search.’ We also provide easy-to-use tools like ‘About This Result’ to check the trustworthiness of sources on the web and encourage people to be cautious and double check the sites they visit.”
A representative from Facebook did not return a request for comment.
The scam victim reported the incident to the FBI and was able to get most of the money she spent on the gift cards back from her bank. Anyone who believes they are the victim of any online fraudulent activity can report it directly to the FBI at ic3.gov.
The FBI also offers information on its website about how to spot the most common scams and cybercrimes.