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Phishing scams reach record high according to the Better Business Bureau


Phishing scams are on the rise, according to data released by the Better Business Bureau.

A study published this month shows 2023 saw a record-high number of phishing scams to the BBB last year, totaling 9,288 reports.

On top of this, 2024 is on track to exceed this record, with 3,363 reports already in the first quarter of this year.

Phishing is when scammers impersonate legitimate people or businesses and try to get victims to turn over personal information or money.

Mexico resident Stacy Keys is one of the more than 3,000 to fall victim to a phishing scam so far in 2024.

"That won't happen again," Keys said. "That won't happen again under no circumstance."

A few months ago, Keys was in Texas when he started looking for a rental car online. He clicked on what he thought was a website for Hertz Car Rental and called the number on his screen.

"I call the phone number on the screen. The guy says, 'This is the corporate office of Hertz rental, do you need a rental car?' I'm like, 'Yeah,'" Keys said. "They talked real professional and everything."

The man on the phone told Keys their website was down, and Keys would have to pay using a prepaid card. Within an hour, Keys said he went to Walgreens and put $500 on a Go2bank card, before he was then asked to go back and put another $300 on a card.

The man on the phone said Keys would get his $300 deposit back and that the car would be delivered to Keys' location.

Keys said he then drove by a legitimate Hertz Car Rental branch, and the worker inside told him the number he was speaking with wasn't a Hertz representative, and that he'd been scammed.

Keys has since reported the scam and has been unsuccessful in getting his $800 back.

He said the man who scammed him will no longer answer his calls, and the Go2bank representatives said his money is already gone.

BBB Spokesperson Khesha Duncan said technology and artificial intelligence are allowing scammers to get trickier.

"It's unfortunately getting easier for scammers to mimic websites, take a logo off of a legitimate website, create their own website and trick people into thinking it's real," Duncan said.

Typically, phishing scams occur over email and try to get victims to click on unknown links. However, phishing scams can also occur via text message or phone call.

Since 2021, there have been 23,126 phishing reports to the BBB, with a median loss of $300 each. These include:

  • 9,793 phishing reports
  • 9,031 vishing reports, or phishing attempts by phone call
  • 3,744 smishing reports, or phishing attempts by text message
  • 348 pharming reports, or phishing reports that download ransomware to a device

In a press release, the BBB said, "Phishing, despite being one of the oldest and most well-known scam techniques, continues to be successful because of its adaptability to various forms of communication."

Keys said he agrees.

"Each scammer has a different scheme that they pull, so you never know what the scheme is going to be," Keys said. "You just have to be cautious about the conversation and what it is that you're doing."

Red flags of phishing scams include:

  • Reports of suspicious activity or account problems
  • Asks for financial information
  • Includes an unknown link
  • Sends unsolicited coupons
  • Generic message and well-known logo
  • Contains typos
  • Uses urgent language
  • Offers government refunds

If someone falls victim to a scam, they should report it to the BBB Scam Tracker, Federal Trade Commission and local law enforcement.

Keys reported his scam and has come to terms with the fact he won't get his money back.

He does, however, believe the banks and prepaid cards should be able to do more to combat scams. He claims Go2bank hung up on him multiple times and could tell him who used the money off of the prepaid card, but they couldn't get his money back.

"If you know who took the money, then why can't you go after him and get him? Because that's my money," Keys said.

ABC 17 News did reach out to Go2bank in an attempt to ask about their procedures when their prepaid cards are used in a scam. A customer service representative said the company does not have a media relations department.

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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