BBB warns consumers of hackers posing as apps like PayPal and Venmo to steal your money

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 8:12 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - These days, it is easier than ever to shop online using apps like PayPal or to send your friends money through Venmo.

Scammers know how much we love these apps because now they’re trying to impersonate them and trick you into giving them access to your bank account.

Art lives in Old Brooklyn.

He did not want to show his face, but he did want to share his story as a warning for other senior citizens like himself.

“I opened up the email, I had supposedly purchased $757 from a place in England,” Art said.

Art says the business was called Blockchain Exchange.

The email looked like it was from PayPal, but he doesn’t have a PayPal account.

“But then again, I thought maybe I was hacked,” explained Art.

The reason Art fell for it is the email looked authentic.

Something Sue McConnell, President and CEO of the Cleveland Better Business Bureau, warns is pretty common.

“These scammers are very good at impersonating other companies, especially well-known companies,” explained McConnell. “Their communications look valid, but you need to really, if it’s an email that they’ve sent you take a close look at that email sender address, you may find that the company name is misspelled, or they’ve added some words or letters to it.”

Art said he called the company and they told him he needed to fill out a refund form.

“He asked questions like, ‘Do you bank online?’ I go, ‘No.’ So, he said, ‘Well download this, just so I can see what’s going on,’ and little bells are going off,” recalled Art. “Still, I’m going along with him. I heard a lot of background noise, and he says, ‘Let me put you on hold’, and then he came back and says, ‘Boy, we got to straighten this out because I don’t want to get fired from my job.’ So, we filled out the refund form.”

When the scammer started asking Art for his banking info, that’s when he knew something was wrong and hung up the phone.

“He called me back and he said, ‘Oh, why’d you hang up?’ You know, belittling me,” recalled Art. “So, I hung up again. This time, he called back, and he threatened me with the police, said he’d call the police. I said good I’ll have the coffee and donuts when they get here. Then I hung up the third time, it was supposedly his boss and then I said oh isn’t it funny your area code you called me the first time was from South Carolina. The second was from Florida and the third was California. You must be getting around the country in that electric car.”

Luckily for Art, he didn’t fall for the scam.

But the BBB told 19 Investigates in 2021, 30% of consumers who reported a scam like this, lost money.

McConnell told me there’s been a huge spike in these kinds of imposter scams here in Cleveland, and across the country.

“When you get a communication like this, let’s say from PayPal, and they claim that you have just made a purchase of several $100, then your immediate reaction could be a little bit of panic, if you didn’t make that purchase, thinking that somebody may have hacked your account, or something is happening,” explained McConnell. “So, do not have a knee-jerk reaction like that. Be aware that this is a very common scam right now and that you should just take a breath and do your own research, contact that payment processor directly and see if this is a legitimate message from them.”

McConnell also warns to never download any links, apps, or files to your phone or computer. Often times that’s the scammer trying to hack into your device.

“These scammers can be very threatening and very intimidating,” McConnell said. “They will try every trick in the book to get you to give them what they want, and the real key is to not communicate with them. Don’t respond, don’t click on things. Don’t provide them any information, hang up. If they contact you, again, don’t answer, don’t respond to the emails, don’t respond to the texts.”

The BBB also says be wary of generic emails.

If the emails doesn’t include your name or the last few digits of your account number, it’s probably not legitimate.

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