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August 14 – The Week in Phone Fraud

TWIPF2 This week in phone fraud, the FTC asks hackers to help stop robocalls and the largest phone scam in Hong Kong history.

Last week marked two of this year’s major security research conferences, Black Hat and DEF CON. This year, the Federal Trade Commission attended both, hosting a contest meant to provide consumers with better tools to defeat robocalls. Pindrop Security representatives helped the FTC to demonstrate and judge the contest entries. In this article, the Washington Post interviews FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny about the experience.

On Monday, the South China Morning Post broke the news that veteran Chinese opera singer Li Yuanrong had fallen victim to the largest single phone scam in Hong Kong history. Scammers called Yuanrong, 73, impersonating government officials. She was tricked into transferring HK$20 million ($2.5 million USD) into several mainland bank accounts.


Full Breakdown of This Week’s Phone Fraud News Could that job offer be a triple-whammy of scams? – One fraud known as the “re-shipping scam” will not only leave you without a real job, it will leave you on the hook for thousands of dollars and could actually expose you to criminal charges. It’s a triple-whammy of scams. FCC workshop to focus on shutting down illegal robocalls – The FCC is inviting companies to participate in a workshop next month to discuss the steps they are taking to protect consumers from robocalls. At the workshop, the companies and the FCC also will evaluate current robo-blocking technologies.

Lincolnshire Echo: ‘Vile and cruel’ £5,000 criminal phone scam targets Lincolnshire woman in her 70s – It happened on Monday August 3, after the victim was called by her phone by a man claiming to be from the fraud squad at Hammersmith Police in London. She was told that money in her bank account was at risk of fraud and she should freeze her account.

Edmonton Journal: The call is coming from inside your house: Spoofing a horror show for many Edmontonians – “It’s really a form of identity theft,” said Stefanie Kletke, also of Edmonton, who received a call from her own number last fall, then again about a month ago. “The first time, it totally freaked me out and stopped me in my tracks,” she said.

The Costa Rica Star: U.S. Expat Gets 10 Years in Prison for Costa Rica Scam – Her co-conspirators called U.S. residents from Costa Rican call centers, falsely informing them that they had won a substantial cash prize in a “sweepstakes.” The victims were told that to receive the prize, they had to send money for a “refundable insurance fee.”

WZZM 13: Local sheriffs warn of Western Union phone scam – The woman was contacted by an unknown male subject. The man told her that a family member had been drinking and was involved in a car accident. The man insisted the woman send money via Western Union to keep her relative out of jail.

National Retail Federation: Pulling a Fast One – As retailers shift to e-commerce, they are seeing a new risk called “fast fraud.” This type of fraud — where the card is not present and only numbers are needed — is undermining retail security systems and exposing merchants to millions of dollars in lost sales.

Pindrop Blog: Call Centers and the Customer Experience – In today’s world of text messages and email, it can sometimes seem like the call center is old technology. Yet, a recent study by Deloitte shows that, in fact, contact centers are growing in size and importance to most businesses and organizations.

News Channel 8: Con artist uses jail phones to scam war veteran’s mother – Businessman Robert Fletcher has been awaiting trial for an investment fraud scheme inside the Pinellas County Jail since April. So what’s he up to behind bars? Using jail phones to rip off the mother of a mentally disturbed Iraq war vet he met in jail.

South China Morning Post: From street con-artists to phone fraud: A history of Hong Kong scams … and how to avoid becoming another victim – And as the old street deceptions decline, new technology and hunger for hard cash fuelled by a mainland behemoth more money focused than it has ever been, telephone con artists cheated Hongkongers out of HK$126 million in 308 cases last month alone.

Bank Info Security: Wire Fraud Just Got More Challenging – A $46.7 million business email compromise scheme that targeted Ubiquiti Networks Inc. shows just how little cybercriminals have to do to fool employees into unknowingly committing wire fraud. “Criminals have figured out that technical attacks are not needed.”

Ars Technica: After “you can’t catch a hacker” boast, FBI makes easy work of swatting teen – A Texas teenager has pleaded guilty to swatting a Minnesota high school. The case marks a rare occasion when a person has been caught “swatting,” orchestrating a fake 911 call that results in a massive show of force police against an unsuspecting target.

South China Morning Post: Hong Kong woman, 73, hands over HK$20 million in largest single phone scam take yet – A 73-year-old Hong Kong woman is the latest victim in a spate of telephone scam attempts after a con artist posing as mainland Chinese official cheated her out of HK$20 million, according to police.

Inside Toronto: Canada Revenue fraud scam targeting single female seniors – Toronto police are warning residents, particularly single female seniors, of a fraud scam where perpetrators posing as Canada Revenue Agency officials call and threaten jail time unless erroneous back taxes are paid — immediately.

Fox Business: What You Need to Know About Unwanted Robocalls – Bikram Bandy, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission, says the FTC receives roughly 300,000 complaints per month about both live and computer-generated phone calls. But “most consumers don’t bother to file a complaint.”

The Kansas City Star: Woman duped by job-offer scam – “I tried to stay openminded even when I could hardly understand the person on the phone,” Coffey said. “She had a strong Asian accent, which is neither here nor there, but the company supposedly was moving into the Kansas City area from Europe.”

Washington Post: Why the FTC is showing up at hackers’ biggest conferences – One thing that has always struck me is that we share a very similar inclination, at least in the White Hat context here, to protect consumers and make sure that as customers are using more and more technology.

Bloomberg: McSweeny Says FTC Using Hackers to Combat Robocalls – U.S. Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Terrell McSweeny talks about the recruitment of hackers to help combat so-called robocalls and the agency’s antitrust enforcement strategy. She talks with Emily Chang at the Def Con Conference in Las Vegas.

The Daily Mail: Cold callers face ban on using ‘unknown’ phone number ruse – New rules will require companies to advertise the number they are calling from and stop them hiding behind an unknown number. The new rules could also apply to those charity fundraisers exposed by the Mail for targeting vulnerable people.

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