A 60-year-old Gillette woman thought she was doing the right thing when she received a call last week from a representative purporting to be from Amazon. The caller told the woman that someone had attempted to purchase an iPhone using her account. When she filled out the fraud paperwork supplied by the representative, she found $500 dollars missing from her bank account. She called the number back, and they assured her that the money would be returned within the hour. It wasn’t. When she called back for a second time, the number had been disconnected.
In a second incident last week, a 41-year-old Campbell County man received a call from what he thought was a customer service representative from PayPal with a Middle Eastern accent, letting him know that they were attempting to close his account and he needed to switch everything over to his checking account. He is now out of $1,300 in Google play cards, and the Gillette Police Department (GPD) attempts to investigate the case.
These types of internet crimes are becoming increasingly more common, according to CyberWyoming Executive Director Laura Baker, with PayPal, Amazon and Microsoft being the top three companies most commonly exploited.
The most prevalent type of scam is to gain user credentials, where scammers try to get a person’s user ID and password to see if that same user ID and password combo works elsewhere, Baker said. Sometimes the scammers will try to blackmail you by sending an email saying they have your passwords and other personal information in an attempt to extort money from those scammed.
Other popular forms of cybercrimes, according to Baker, are identity theft, fake invoices or product sales and scams impersonating charities. In Wyoming, three charities have been target, including Project HOPE and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Cheyenne as well as St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Dubois.
Of those crimes that have been reported to CyberWyoming, the bulk are in Laramie at 32 this year, followed by Cheyenne at 18 with seven in Sheridan. Four crimes have been reported from Gillette residents.
One of the biggest vulnerabilities is email, Baker said, noting that the best way to avoid being scammed is to check the sender’s address when replying. In many cases, the ‘reply’ address used in phishing scams are long, bizarre emails with no bearing to the company it claims to represent. Another red flag are misspellings in the body of the email, Baker noted. The general advice from their group is not to respond to emails that you didn’t initiate and to always check their source.