NEW PHONE SCAM TWIST REFLECTS 2011 BUZZ HEADLINER:
Automated Message States Penalties, Threat of Imprisonment for Having Visited Wikileaks
With Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, even recently professing “fear for his life” over his activities via his controversial web site, Wikileaks: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/death-penalty-fears-for-wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-2181547.html, and with the year 2010 ending with such a BUZZ about Wikileaks, it was only a matter of time before clever scammers would reveal a “latest” approach at attempting to part people with their money in 2011.
This twist is one you will want to pay attention to, especially if you have visited, or are visiting the site, Wikileaks (which, by the way, if you are not military personnel, and where you are not limited by the restrictions of your company’s computer access, etc., is not “against the law” to visit.)
It has been brought to your regional BBB’s attention via the Central and Eastern KY BBB that there is a Wikileaks automated phone scam circulating. Thanks to that BBB for this warning!
Your regional BBB contacted its regional FBI and FTC offices to gain further insight. Verdict? This is a first we’ve all heard of this phone scam angle, but it doesn’t surprise us!
The FBI clarified that this scam relies, like all vishing scam scenarios, on VOIP, rendering anyone’s Caller ID essentially meaningless. (So, don’t think that you are receiving a call from the number reflected on your Caller ID in this type of scam. It is spoofed, fake, made up.)
States Robert Schroeder, Northwest Regional Director of the Federal Trade Commission, “Consumers who get phone calls from strangers need to keep their guard up, especially when the caller makes threats based on bogus accusations – that the consumer has failed to pay an old debt, or has committed some kind of crime, and has to pay up immediately. Insist on a written statement of what you owe. Don’t pay it if it’s fake. Don’t provide your bank account, credit card, or social security number. And report the threat to the FTC and your state attorney general -and, if it’s a threat of personal harm, call the police.”
A caller reported she received an automated phone call telling her that her computer and IP address had been noted as having visited the Wikileaks site, and that there were grave consequences for this, including a $250,000 or $25,000 fine, perhaps imprisonment. It left an option for leaving a message as to how she was going to handle this and the fine payment. She figured it was a scam, and did nothing but hang up. It gave a number on caller ID of 852-604-4799. Reverse searches on the Internet don’t bring up anything but a couple subjective chat boards where people report similar calls.
We deem this call a scam, an attempt to get you to feel threatened by this false news, and then, out of fear of repercussion, get you to “wire” fines to an unknown source.
If you are military personnel, this type of call could seem very real or hold more significance because the US Pentagon openly banned military personnel from visiting Wikileaks for security reasons: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/aug/6/pentagon-bars-staff-from-visiting-wikileaks-site/
If you are a private citizen, a simple Joe or Jane, and you receive this call, first and foremost, don’t panic, and don’t believe it, either. Protect your personal info. Don’t give any out, and don’t confirm any, either.
What if the caller threatens you with imprisonment? We call this type of scam threat a “you just sit around waiting while we come to arrest you…” type threat which holds no merit or efficacy and is all part of the scam to intimidate you into caving into the scammers. BBB has seen this scare tactic utilized in other phone scams.
If you feel you have fallen for this scam or a scam similar to it and have compromised personal or financial information to a scam caller, file a formal report ASAP with your local law enforcement agency. Contact any and all merchants or financial institutions associated with what you have compromised ASAP so they can help you further secure any info. Also, contact the major credit reporting agencies to place fraud alerts on your reports.
Also file a formal complaint with the FBI at: www.ic3.gov as well as the FTC at: www.ftc.gov.
If you feel you are actually in harm’s way, report your situation to the police.