Hackers scam Southern California woman out of $25K | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

A Southern California woman who emptied her bank account after being scammed by hacker scare tactics is speaking out in hopes that others won’t fall prey to the same scheme.  

Lisa Miles, who was recently widowed, says she’s been learning to live life on her own again and that social media has been a welcome connection to others.  

Not that long ago, Miles was scrolling through Instagram on her computer when a pop-up message startled her.  

“I clicked on the message,” she said. “I’d never really done that. I’m not sure how Instagram works. I look at pictures. I clicked on it and all of a sudden it just started screaming and being loud, like, ‘You must call Microsoft right now, you’ve been hacked.’” 

A pop-up computer message often used by scammers seen in this undated file photo. (KTLA)

Miles found that she couldn’t close the pop and couldn’t shut off the computer. Worried that she had been hacked, she called the number on the pop-up message.  

“My husband used to protect me, obviously,” she said. “I was married 35 years and I’ve never had anything like this and because I’m on my own now, I’m very, very careful.”  

A man claiming to be tech support answered Miles’ call and said that seven hackers were buying child pornography with funds from her Wells Fargo bank account and that she needed to move the money immediately. 

“The problem is he said, tonight at 7 p.m., the hacker is taking $25,000 out of your bank account to buy this pornography,” Miles explained.  

The man then said he was connecting her to a fraud liaison at Wells Fargo and a second person entered the scam.  

Miles said she asked the second person for an employee ID and got his contact information. The con artist, she said, was very convincing and knew her bank account numbers, her recent banking activity and even that she had used her checking account recently to buy flowers, all of which was information she had not provided to him.  

“All the time saying, please don’t worry, but it’s very important that we get this money out tonight because that transaction of your porn that you just bought will go through and you’ll be arrested, that type thing,” she explained.  

At that point, Miles says the scare tactic worked and she followed the scammers’ instructions, going to two different Wells Fargo branches in the San Fernando Valley where she withdrew $25,000.  

She then went to a smoke shop in Canoga Park where she deposited the money into a bitcoin machine, all of this while she was on the phone with the thief, who assured her that the money would reappear in her account the next day.  

A bitcoin machine seen in this undated filed photo. (KTLA)

The money, of course, never made it back to her account, and when Miles got back home, she says the reality hit her that she had been scammed out of all the money in her checking account.

“I just cried, it was so violating,” she said. “It’s so wrong, it’s so mean.”  

At the smoke, KTLA’s Mary Beth McDade discovered the bitcoin machine was no longer even there.  

“They just lease the space, that’s all I know,” an employee told McDade.  

Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Michael McComas said he’s not surprised that hackers directed her to a bitcoin machine. The legit and legal machines, which are now showing up in places like smoke shops, pharmacies and gas stations, are often used by thieves.  

“He most likely had her take the money to the bitcoin machine. He most likely gave her a blockchain address and then she deposited that money to that address and once that happens it’s gone,” McComas said.  

These types of scams, according to McComas, are hard to solve and says people should never trust a pop-up message on their computer.  

“It’s never legitimate,” he said. “Banks, the government, nobody is going to reach out to you through a pop-up message.”  

Lou Rabon, with the Cyber Defense Group, says scare tactics are one of the main ways hackers con their victims.  

“They’re just trying to pressure you using time, so the person doesn’t really have time to think and really evaluate what’s going on,” he explained.  

Rabon believes the hackers got into Miles’ computer and obtained her banking information through a type of malicious program that she, likely, accidentally installed. 

Miles has since changed all her banking information and passcodes, but she’s still in shock that she fell victim to such a nefarious scheme.  

“This happens to people and it changes their entire life,” she said. “It’s so horrible.”  

Police and cyber experts recommend not only reporting the crime to local law enforcement, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, which can be found by following this link.  


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