Hackers are using trusted company names in scams

Woman’s lifesavings are stolen
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 6:19 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Small business owner Estelle Mannion pays close attention to her finances. So when she received an email that said Norton Anti-Virus had auto-drafted her bank account - it got her attention.

”Not realizing it didn’t have a Norton’s logo or letterhead. I acted out of ‘Hmm how dare they.’ because it was more than I had paid the last year,” she said.

She called the phone number on the email to sort it out.

”This guy’s name was Steve and he sounded like he could have been my grandson - calling from Dallas. ‘We are looking out for you Ms. Estelle. We are looking out for you, but please don’t notify anybody.’”

To reverse the transaction, he told her he needed remote access to her computer.

”Not thinking that was suspicious. That should have been a red flag right there.”

She gave him permission - just like she’s given Norton permission to do so in the past.

A day into the back and forth with the scammer, she discovered someone had accessed her bank accounts and nearly wiped our her savings. She immediately notified her bank.

”Of course, I felt like I had a sucker punch to my stomach. I thought, ‘what have I done? I’ve given these people access to all of my information.’”

What Mannion experienced is one if the fastest-growing scams tracked by the FBI’s Internet Crimes Division. A new report released in March by the FBI shows how much complaints have surged over the past five years and with big losses - $6.9 Billion in 2021.

Phishing emails, like the one Estelle, received saw the largest increase in 2021.

”Think of it kind of like someone coming to your front door and knocking on your door and saying hey you don’t know me, but I would like to go and rifle through your things on your desk and help you clean up your desk for you. You would never let someone do that - you wouldn’t let someone in your house,” said Steve Evans, Acting Supervisory Special Agent FBI in Atlanta.

But that’s exactly what the FBI says people are doing by clicking on unsolicited links in their email.

“The people who are behind the scams are professional and targeting small to mid-sized businesses, said Chad Hunt, Supervisory Special Agent FBI in Atlanta. ”Because those folks are going to have more money than an individual but less security than a major corporation or a major bank.”

They also are targeting those over the age of 60, like Estelle.

”You pay for your ignorance, and this is what I was ignorant in realizing in that someone had done this to me, but then again I’m not the only one,” she said.

“People all over the world are being hacked like this.”

Estelle also had her identity compromised during the scam and has since frozen her credit and taken the steps to monitor her identity. But she is one of the lucky ones. She said her bank was able to restore all of the money she lost.’

The FBI says most people are out the money.

Here are tips from the FBI to protect yourself:

  • Never respond to an unsolicited email.
  • When in doubt, look up the number to call the company directly.
  • Do not call the number on the unsolicited email.
  • Never give someone remote access to your computer.
  • Set up a two-factor authentication -for example, after you login into your bank account, you also get a text message with a password to enter. It’s another layer of security.
  • Write down your passwords on a piece of paper. As the FBI pointed out, paper is not hackable, but keep it in a secure location.

To report a scam directly to the FBI, go to IC3.gov

Norton Anti-virus is warning customers about this phishing scam. They released the following statement:

NortonLifeLock is a trusted name in consumer Cyber Safety. Unfortunately, hackers and scammers want to take advantage of the trust we’ve built, and fraudulently use our name and branding to try to trick and defraud consumers. We encourage consumers to be vigilant in monitoring for phishing schemes. Tips and techniques for identifying and reporting phishing can be found on our website at https://www.nortonlifelock.com/blogs/feature-stories/fraudulent-use-nortonlifelock-brand and https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-online-scams-what-is-phishing.html.

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