The FBI is warning of an uptick in online scammers who impersonate government officials, convince victims to liquidate their assets and then arrange a pick-up time for a courier to retrieve the valuables in person — often after convincing the victims to purchase gold or other precious metals.
In a public service announcement Monday, the FBI warned there was an increase in this illegal activity between May and December last year, with losses totaling more than $55 million. Many of the victims are senior citizens, the FBI said.
These tactics often take a “multi-layered approach,” with scammers posing as a tech company, a financial institution and then a government official, according to the agency. The scammers then tell victims their financial accounts have been hacked or are at risk, and that they need to secure their funds by liquidating their assets and buying gold, silver, or other precious metals.
“Sometimes, scammers instruct victims to wire funds to a metal dealer who will ship the precious metals to victims’ homes,” the FBI added.
Once the goods are secured, the FBI said, the scammers send couriers to retrieve the items at the victims’ homes or at public locations. Sometimes scammers ask for a serial number on a dollar bill to verify the transaction, according to the agency.
“Scammers tell victims they will safeguard the assets in a protected account on behalf of the victims. In reality, victims never hear back from the scammers and lose all their money,” the FBI said.
The FBI requested that victims report the crimes as soon as they can.
“The US Government and legitimate businesses will never request you purchase gold or other precious metals,” the FBI said.
The FBI said that to avoid such crimes, people should protect their personal information, avoid clicking on links in texts/emails or on unsolicited pop-ups, never download software at the request of someone unknown, not allow others access to a personal computer and not contact phone numbers provided in pop-ups or texts/emails.
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