The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning citizens of a new phone scam.
The FBI is investigating a surge in denial of service attacks directed at individuals. In these attacks, criminals use automated dialing programs to overwhelm the phone lines of the victim.
The victim may receive numerous calls in which they hear anything from dead air to recorded messages or advertisements.
While the victim’s phone line is tied up with these calls, the criminals access the victims’ bank accounts and online trading or other money management accounts.
Prior to the actual attack, criminals will obtain personal information from a victim such as account numbers and passwords. The methods of obtaining this information vary and can include eliciting responses to a bogus email, calling the victim and asking for the information while pretending to represent a financial institution or trolling social networking sites for information.
The criminals will then launch the phone attack and then either call or access a financial institution online while pretending to be the victim.
If the financial institution attempts to call the account holder to verify the transaction, they will be unable to do so because the phone line will be busy.
If the transaction does not immediately go through, the criminals may re-contact the financial institution as the victim and authorize the transaction or they add their own phone number to victims’ accounts and wait for the bank to call.
These attacks often go undetected until the funds have already been stolen.
In one of the first reported instances of this type of attack, a Florida dentist lost $400,000 from his retirement account after a denial of service attack on his phone.
The FBI advises individuals to take the following steps to avoid becoming victims of this type of attack:
• never give out personal information to an unsolicited phone caller or via e-mail.
• change online banking and automated telephone system passwords frequently.
• check your account balances often.
• protect your computers with the latest virus protection and security software.
If you believe you may have been the victim of a telephone denial of service attack, contact your financial institution, your telephone provider and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx.