Personal Finance

7 new scams thieves use to snatch your cash

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If you spot an ATM that's spewing cash, then you may have just walked in on a crime scene.

This scheme, known as jackpotting, is among the rip-offs highlighted by Experian in its list of the "ultimate scams."

The consumer credit reporting company compiled the list based on complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker.

"Scams are more sophisticated today compared to five years ago," said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of consumer protection at Experian.

"A lot of it has to do with the record amount of compromised data available on the "dark web" for criminals to use," he said.

Here are some of the new methods fraudsters use to separate you from your cash.


Adam Gault | Getty Images

If you see an ATM spewing out money, it's probably been hijacked by hackers.

Here's how it works: Bad actors disguised as repairmen install malicious software in an ATM, causing the machine to dispense all its cash, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut. Others in on the scheme then pocket the money.

Just this February, federal prosecutors in Connecticut charged two men with bank fraud based on a "jackpotting" scheme.

Death threats via email

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Late last year, the FBI's Phoenix office warned of an increase in people reporting email threats, demanding that they pay a sum in virtual currency or prepaid cards — or else.

The FBI suggests that individuals who receive such messages report them to the agency's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

An email from the 'Secretary of State'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pauses while speaking to the media at the U.S. State Department after being fired by President Donald Trump in Washington, March 13, 2018.
Leah Millis | Reuters

No, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not emailing you about a $1.85 million payment that that you're owed because of an investigation by the FBI and the CIA.

That's just another scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

In this rip-off, thieves impersonate government officials and tell victims that they're eligible to receive an ATM card with a large sum of money on it — provided they send along cash and personal information first.

'Can you hear me?'

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Last year was topped by the "Can you hear me?" scam, according to the Better Business Bureau. The consumer advocacy organization received more than 10,000 reports involving this scheme in 2017.

The swindle goes like this, according to the Federal Communications Commission: You receive a phone call, and the person on the other end of the line asks, "Can you hear me?" The caller records you saying "yes."

This thief can now use your voice signature to impersonate you and authorize charges via phone.

Next time, just let the call go to voicemail.

Fake vacation listings

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Among travel and vacation scams, the Better Business Bureau highlighted con artists who post photos of properties that aren't for rent or that don't exist in a bid to get your credit card information.

In all, travel and vacation scams accounted for 2,560 consumer complaints in 2017, the BBB said.

Crypto rip-offs

Abstract initial coin offering button on a virtual electronic user interface
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Be on the lookout for phony initial coin offerings or ICOs.

In these arrangements, scammers seek investors who are willing to pony up some virtual currency to back a start-up. In exchange, the investors receive a token issued by the company.

In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against two founders of a cryptocurrency firm for their role in a fake ICO that raised more than $32 million from investors in 2017.


A closeup of a credit card with a memory chip
hamikus | Stock / 360 | Getty Images

Out: Thieves "skimming" your ATM card and stealing your details from the magnetic strip.

In: Bad actors "shimming" the embedded smart chip in your ATM card.

Fraudsters are using devices called "shimmers" in card slots at ATMs to snag your card data from the chip.

Thieves can use this information to create a clone of your card and rack up charges.