A Scam Busted
Updated: May 12, 2021
I just watched one of the scariest videos I have ever seen on YouTube, and it had nothing to do with haunted houses, clowns, or The Shining. It shows how clever some criminals are when it comes to stealing other people’s money.
Mark Rober is the creator and star, so to speak, of the video. His YouTube channel features videos about all sorts of interesting topics, but the one that caught my attention shows Rober exposing scammers who prey on people through emails.
He learned of an elderly woman, let’s call her “Ruth”, who was about to lose $12,500 in a phishing scam. Rober decided to step in and hopefully stop the theft while enacting a bit of revenge on the thief.
Ruth received an email that was supposedly from Amazon. It said something like, “Thank you for your order. You have been charged $200.” Then it only gave her one option to cancel the order: she had to call them.
There are a number of red flags throughout this interaction that should have alerted Ruth that she was not really dealing with Amazon. This is was the first one. Amazon allows you to cancel orders online without having to dial a phone number.
When she called, she was told they would gladly refund her money. Instead of simply taking the charge off the credit card, however, they asked her to install a computer program called “AnyDesk” (This is red flag #2.).
AnyDesk is a legitimate “remote desktop software” that allows the user to access and control any other computer in the world, if permission has been granted to it.
After she downloaded AnyDesk, the scammer told Ruth to check her savings account, because sometimes refunds are automatically deposited into the customer’s savings account. So she checks, and of course there is no refund.
He then says he can try something else, but first, he blacks out her screen so she can’t see what he’s doing with her bank account. Using a simple html edit trick, he changes a purchase from her bank account and makes it look like she has received a $20,000 refund. She can’t see this, due to the blacked out screen.
He proceeds to tell her that the billing department wasn’t able to process the refund, so there is one last thing they can try (red flag #3- Amazon would have no trouble issuing a refund. It would not have to make three attempts.).
He opens a text window and tells her to enter her name, zip code, last four digits of her social security number, and then finally, the refund amount.
He also tells her he cannot change anything she types. Whatever she types is final (red flag #4- A customer would never be in charge of entering the refund amount.).
After she types in $200, the scammer adds two zeros to turn her entry into $20,000 and presses enter so quickly she doesn’t notice. Remember, he can control her computer because she downloaded AnyDesk and granted access to his computer.
He then asks her to check her bank account to see if she has received the refund. When she checks, she sees the $20,000 refund, which she doesn’t know is fake, and immediately apologizes for messing up. She thinks she accidently pressed too many zeros.
He plays it up and tells her that she must help him save his job, or “My family will die due to hunger, due to starvation.” She apologizes profusely, and you can tell by the tone of her voice that she feels awful and will do anything to correct her mistake and save this poor man’s job.
The video doesn’t show how he convinced Ruth to actually mail thousands of dollars through the mail, but according to Rober, at this point in the scam he will talk the victim through the whole process of withdrawing the money from the bank and packaging it up in such a way that it won’t be detected by x-ray machines or dogs. For example, he might tell her to wrap the cash in saran wrap and aluminum foil (red flag #5).
So Ruth takes $12,500 she has withdrawn from her bank account and mails it off to Amazon to make up for her “mistake”.
In most of the rest of the video, Rober shows how the money gets moved around, from the victim, to a money mule, to a supervisor, and finally to the head of the scheme in India.
And all this started when Ruth called a phone number in an email that was supposedly from Amazon.
For all the details, and to see how Rober enacts some revenge on these thieves, watch the full video HERE. Be sure to show it to anyone you think might be at risk for getting scammed. The more people who know about these methods, the harder it will be for these crooks to steal other people’s money.