CHRISTIANSBURG – Recently, The Christiansburg Police Department has received several reports of people being victimized by on-line scams resulting from pop-up windows that appear on personal computers.
The victim will get a pop-up window that appears to be from Microsoft and warns that their computer has been hacked and that they need to call the number in the window. When they call that number, the scammer pretends to be a Microsoft agent and tells the victim that their computer has been hacked and that their bank account information has been compromised.
The scammer then asks what banking institution the caller banks with. When they have this information, they tell the caller that they (the scammer) will contact their bank and advise them of the “hack” and that the bank will contact the victim directly with instructions on how to secure their account. A short time later the victim receives a call from “the bank”, but it is actually a second scammer. This person tells the victim that their account has been compromised and that they need to immediately withdraw all the money they have in the bank and deposit it into at Bitcoin account at the nearest Bitcoin machine so their funds will be “secure” while the bank tracks the security breach. Unfortunately, this Bitcoin account belongs to the scammer and once the money is deposited, it is transferred out to the scammer. At that point, the money is gone and is neither traceable nor recoverable.
Some variations of this scam include having the victim buy gift cards and providing the numbers to the “bank representative”, or to transfer the money to a secure account using Venmo, Cash App, etc. Any time someone who claims to be working for a business, bank, or the government asks you to buy Bitcoin, purchase gift cards and provide the card numbers, or otherwise transfer money digitally, you should immediately suspect it is a scam. The scammer will often grow terse or angry if you question them. They may even curse or threaten you with arrest. Do not be intimidated by this. Simply hang up and contact your bank, or the institution they claim to represent, at a number you research and locate yourself. Do not use the number they provide as they usually work in teams and someone else who is also involved in the scam will answer and continue the charade.
The source of an initial breach into the victim’s personal computer is generally unknown. It could be malware associated with a website the person has visited. It could also result from a phishing attack where the person receives an email from an unverified source and clicks a link or attachment in the message. Remember, it is always better to use your browser to go directly to a store or business website than it is to click a link in an unsolicited email.
To reiterate, many of the scams involve overseas actors and once the money is sent, be it by Bitcoin deposit, digital transfer or gift card number, law enforcement cannot recover that money. We urge you, please do not send money in these circumstances. Your bank will not tell you to purchase Bitcoin, and local law enforcement agencies are not going to ask you pay fines with gift cards to avoid arrest.
If you find yourself in these circumstances, please contact the police department before sending any money.
Town of Christiansburg