TULSA, Okla. — The dangers of falling victim to scams on the internet have amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many people are turning to online resources for help and finding themselves using faux websites meant to trick users into giving up personal information.
"My heart fell,” said Leonard Davis, a victim of fraud. “I thought ‘Oh my [gosh], I just screwed up.’"
Unfortunately, that feeling is not going away anytime soon for Davis, who's now out nearly $1,500 thanks to internet scammers.
"It's been hard to get to sleep the last couple nights because I still can't get it off my mind,” he said.
Davis was having issues with his Cash App that allows users to share payments via mobile device. When he couldn’t track down a $25 credit through the app, he turned to the internet for help.
"I called who I thought was Cash App," Davis said.
The website appeared legit to Davis, and he thought nothing of it when a so-called "Cash App" representative asked him to download a sharing app so they could access his account.
“They had me go to my Cash App,” he said. “They said ‘OK here's the problem. There’s a problem with your card. We need to move everything in your account out, and then we'll move it back in.’"
As it turns out, the only problem was trusting the phony operator on the line. Davis’ bank account and personal information were compromised.
‘I just couldn't believe how easy it was for them,” Davis said.
Days late the imposter website had been removed, likely a tactic for fraudsters to get away with the crime.
The Better Business Bureau suggests users be extra careful when using a website and check for its validity.
"Make sure it has the ‘https’ and the lock symbol at the top in the address bar,” Amie Mitchell, president and CEO of BBB Tulsa, said.
If you are using the internet to make or share payments, be careful.
"We recommend that any time you can, use a credit card, because that's your best way if you are scammed to get your money back,” Mitchell said.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter weighed in on the issue.
"Do not give any important personal information over the phone to anybody,” Hunter said. “Giving information like that over the phone just isn't appropriate and it never ends up well."
The Attorney General's office says it sees these scams often and looks to prosecute.
“Internet scams are the most difficult frankly to hold people accountable for, because many of them originate overseas, but we have had some success working with federal law enforcement,” Hunter said.
Davis did reach out to the real Cash App asking what could be done. Unfortunately, the company’s response was there wasn't enough information for it to investigate, and Davis' case was closed.
Cash App's website does state in part; "Cash App will never ask for your sign-in code over the phone, on social media or through any other medium."
If you're suspicious about a website or fishy email, the Attorney General suggest several things for consumers to do to make sure they do not fall victim.
First, look for the words “secure” or “verified” on any website you are using, indicating there is a trust seal.
Second, if you see an ‘s’ after the ‘http,’ that indicates a valid website.
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