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International fraudsters target Coloradans as accountability remains a challenge

Consumer advocates increase expectations for lawmakers and gift card companies
International fraudsters target Coloradans as accountability remains a challenge
Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 06, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS — New Federal Trade Commission numbers show last year fraudsters stole more than $8 Billion from consumersand investigators suspect many of the criminals were launching their schemes from overseas.

After falling victim to a fraud or scam, in many cases people are being told by investigators their money is gone and since the scam likely originated overseas the odds of accountability for the criminal is extremely low.

As consumers in the digital age we’ve accepted this answer for years, but News5 wanted to find out if we should have higher expectations for stopping these costly crimes?

Robocalls, social media messages, phishing emails, and random text messages are all ways the Federal Trade Commission says international fraudsters are connecting with their victims to steal information and money.

”So many of them are abroad because of how cheap it is to use information technology, phone calls, social media, emails. They can do what you hear about is phishing. They will try to find whatever way they can to hook you,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser told News5. “The problem is once you send money abroad to somebody or you give someone gift cards, that is super hard to trace.”

Whether it’s paying money for something online that never arrives as part of an online shopping scam, paying to cover taxes as part of a sweepstakes scam with no real prize money, or maybe paying to process a job application as part of an employment scam with no actual job, these are all ways international fraudsters are taking money from consumers year after year.

CSU Global’s “Dr. Fraud” J. Michael Skibatravels internationally to learn and speak about these issues and says these investigations are complicated.

”When you broaden that globally and you think that maybe the criminal might be somewhere in let’s say South America, but they called spoofing a number from Eastern Europe and they targeted a victim in the United States, for law enforcement that’s a really tough investigation to start with. Just getting boots on the ground and where do you find these people,” said Skiba.

He says the best way to inspire more follow up investigations is to make sure to report fraud and scams when they happen.

”At a minimum if you are scammed just report it because that way we can keep those statistics at an academic and research level,” said Skiba. “We can say look at this issue in the United States it’s massive and needs resources.”

Should we be expecting more from our elected leaders when it comes to addressing these international crimes?

Mark Fetterhoff from Colorado’s AARP and ElderWatchthinks so.

He says it starts with asking them to work with telecommunication companies to do a better job of stopping unwanted calls and text messages that often lead to scams.

“I think fraud is an issue regardless of political beliefs people can agree on,” said Fetterhoff. “Tell them fraud matters to you and tell them these types of schemes are unacceptable.”

One of the top ways fraudsters convince their victims to pay is with gift cards, which international fraudsters can drain instantly if they have the information from the cards.

David McClellan helps consumers investigate scams through his company Social Catfishand says one way to cut off these fraudsters is to expect more from gift card companies.

”It’s like there’s no recourse and it’s crazy to me that a gift card provider would have no clue if somebody is stealing these gift cards and then redeeming them to catch these criminals,” said McClellan. “That’s one of the most shocking things to me because we’ve done some work in the past about how much money is lost every year from scams due to gift cards. If you take the top 5 gift card companies it’s probably a decent size of their revenue.”

Another item McClellan says consumers should be aware of is the role the improvement of artificial intelligence technology will play in establishing more efficient ways to identify and block fraudsters online. He believes in the next year we should expect banks, social networks, dating sites, and other apps to be utilizing this technology to better protect us.

If you need up with that reverse image search, or getting help understanding if you might be the target of an international fraudster you can visit the experts at https://socialcatfish.com/reverse-image-search/

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