Cybercrime, Telephone Scams are Lessons to be Learned by Miami Consumers

Cybercrime has been highly documented as it claims 1 million victims each day. These online and electronic scams cost consumers — and the corporations that are seeking to stop or prevent crimes — tens of billions of dollars each year.

People are constantly at risk, whether on their computers, cell phones or with the companies they use to store their personal information. But many people are falsely accused of committing these cybercrimes in Miami.

With the complex nature of these charges, many police officers simply aren’t trained enough to understand how computer networks operate and how they can be used to defraud consumers, especially among Florida’s older population. But Miami cyber crimes attorneys have spent years working on these cases, some as prosecutors at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

A recent story by Daily Finance illustrates the problem that people in South Florida could also face. An 84-year-old Illinois woman got a phone call from a man saying he was her grandson. He needed money, and he needed it fast.

That should be the first hint that it is a scam. But the woman said the scenario seemed plausible — the man said he and some friends had gone to Canada and gotten into an accident and he needed $5,000 to make repairs.

The woman said she didn’t know how to wire so much money. So he directed her to Wal-Mart, which uses MoneyGram’s services to allow people to move money and make payments. She said the real person who is her grandson had recently toured in Iraq, so she didn’t have his phone number to call him to check if that was really him. So she dutifully went off to her nearest Wal-Mart and made the transfer.

But she became nervous when she got a second call, asking for more money when the man said the accident damaged a building and he needed another $5,000. As an identity check, she asked him to tell her his grandfather’s name. The man didn’t know, of course. That’s when the women knew it was a scam.

MoneyGram was recently fined $18 million by the Federal Trade Commission for allowing it to be a haven for telemarketing fraudsters. It also had to undergo anti-fraud improvements to prevent consumers from getting ripped off.

While this story is by no means uncommon, fraudsters are getting craftier than simply asking for wire transfers over the phone. Hackers are able to get into company networks and add charges to cell phone bills and direct the money to them instead of the company, with no one noticing. They can also steal a person’s credit card information through the use of virus-laden mobile phone applications to make fraudulent charges.

But thieves like this don’t user their real name or mailing address when stealing. And for online thievery, scammers hide their computer’s IP address, which is a unique location in the cyber world that could identify exactly where the person was operating from. But police often are fooled as to who is really committing the crime and sometimes they end up being wrong. A false arrest can be costly.