New tool used by scammers making it harder to get money back

Scammers are constantly evolving their techniques to keep up with the latest technology.
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 8:37 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 28, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT
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SMRYNA, Tenn. (WSMV) - Scammers are constantly evolving their techniques to keep up with the latest technology. As one Mid-state woman learned, if you are a victim of this latest technique, it’s even harder to get your money back.

The Justice Department said there is now the preferred payment method for a range of scams.

When Erin James opened his mother’s bank statements, he knew immediately there was a problem.

“I looked at her account, and it went from $17,300 to $0. So I’m like, mom, ‘did you buy a car?’ She said ‘no,’” James said.

Multiple transfers from her Bank of America account were draining everything into a Coinbase account. Coinbase is an online account allowing you to buy and sell cryptocurrency. The problem is that his 79-year-old mother doesn’t know what Coinbase is.

“The only thing she can do on her computer is check her Yahoo mail,” James said.

James said she knows much less about cryptocurrency.

“I thought instantly she was scammed” James said.

But proving that has been nearly impossible.

“The hackers involved somehow have gotten ahold of her bank information and enough of her identity information to authenticate, in this case, Bank of America to Coinbase,” Tim Neiman, who is a cyber security expert and CEO of Dynamic Edge in Nashville, said.

Neiman said hackers are using Coinbase because it makes it easier to steal a person’s money and even harder to track them down. The police confirm that the hacker lives in another country in this case.

“It looks all legitimate, and Coinbase can’t tell it’s not the person because she’s authenticated with all these different things,” Neiman said.

News4 Investigates contacted Coinbase to determine what they’re doing to ensure people are whom they say they are when opening an account.

A Coinbase spokesperson tells News4 Investigates, “It takes all reports of unauthorized activity seriously. And if a fraudulent account is created and reported, it will be permanently restricted from any further activity.”

News 4 also reached out to Bank of America and found out if the scammer provides information like a social security number and bank account number, there’s very little they can do to get your money back.

Ultimately, being proactive is your best protection.

“A lot of people just ignore those bank statements. Go down them with a fine-toothed comb,” James said.

The FBI said last year complaints of cryptocurrency fraud added up to more than $1.6 billion.

As for the victim’s account in this situation, Coinbase said they are working with the family to ensure it gets shut down.

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