Global rings of crooks are stealing the bank accounts of thousands of the elderly, using lists of names and phone numbers sold to them by corporate America, NYT reports.
Pretending to be updating their Social Security and insurance records, the criminals tricked the retirees into giving up the information needed to drain their money dry.
The lists were sold to them by infoUSA, one of the biggest aggregators and resellers of consumer information, with packaged lists that practically put out the shingle for scammers. Internal emails reveal that infoUSA execs were aware that some of these clients had been prosecuted for or were under investigation for telemarketing scams.
The banking data was then used to create unsigned checks to withdraw the money. Wachovia accepted $142 million of these checks, while failing to screen firms, respond to thousands of complaints, or react when 50-60% of the checks bounced. Five other banks were involved, too, but Wachovia was the largest.
The worst part is that many of those bilked were just lonely and appreciated someone to talk to. And the thieves were happy to listen.
Make sure to warn older family members and neighbors about the dangers of giving away personal information, especially bank account and social security numbers, over the phone. Or try actually talking to them so they don’t join a sweepstakes just to have a chance with interacting with another human being. — BEN POPKEN