Our partners at WBZ in Boston report on a type of scam that has cost consumers billions. In this case, a man was arranging home renovations with a legitimate company. What he didn’t realize was that a hacker had intercepted his communications. Once the man began discussing terms of payment with the contractor, the hacker slipped into the conversation. Using an email address that looked virtually identical to the legitimate contractor’s, the hacker provided information on where to wire the initial payment for the project — $10,000. After he wired the money, some weeks passed, and the real contractor contacted the man to ask whether he still wanted to proceed with the project. It was only at this point that he realized the funds had been wired to the wrong person. Given the amount of time that had passed, there was no way to recover the money, but this can serve as an important lesson.
The FBI has seen an increased number of these scams in recent years, confirming that they have cost consumers more than $5 billion globally. In this case, the false email address replaced an “I” with an “L,” which went unnoticed during rapid communication with a mobile device. Sources at the FBI confirm that in all of these cases, making a phone call or meeting face-to-face with the legitimate business could have uncovered the scam and prevented the lost funds. Even if you have been in email contact with a company offering services, be sure to verify their identity before you send any money.