Life savings gone––How a woman lost all her money to a scam

Woman avoiding a scam call.

A scam victim shared her story with us. This is what we can learn from it.

You’re exhausted. You just moved to a new house. You went through a big breakup. It’s 11 p.m., and you’re ready to rest. You get a text saying that your phone bill wasn’t processed because the account details were out of date. Seems about right. After all, you just moved.

You click on the link to update your account details. Later, like clockwork, you get a call from your bank’s fraud team. They tell you about a phishing text you’ve just received and they’re here to protect your money. Unfortunately, though, the caller wasn’t from your bank. The phishing text was the beginning of a well-crafted scam to get you to trust the “bank’s fraud team” so the adversaries could steal your hard-earned life savings.

This was Moya Crockett’s experience with an Automated Push Payment (APP) scam.

What happened?

It all started with a text. Moya recalls, “The phishing text definitely wasn’t particularly sophisticated—if it hadn’t arrived late at night, I don’t think I’d have fallen for it. But that was a key part of what made the scam so clever.”

She added, “When the scammer called pretending to be from my bank’s fraud team, he asked if I could think of any texts or emails I’d received recently that could have been phishing texts, which might have given fraudsters access to my account.”

Moya was targeted by scammers using social engineering tactics. She mentioned how “the scammer was nothing but lovely and reassuring, telling me that he’d help me get everything straightened out.”

The scammers went as far as to make minor transactions on her account using the information they got from the phishing text. Moya recognized these as fraudulent. “It was clear to me that my account was vulnerable and would need securing,” she said.

At one point, Moya panicked and suspected the scammers. But they reassured her, going as far as telling her that they were glad she was taking her security seriously. They pointed out that they were calling from her bank’s customer telephone number, which was printed on the back of her debit card. Unfortunately, they had spoofed the bank’s phone number too.

The scammers then “helped” Moya move her money to a new account. In half an hour, all her life savings were gone. It was devastating. At first, Moya felt ashamed of what had happened. Later, she realized, “No one—literally no one—is above being scammed.”

How to protect yourself from similar scams

As time passes, scammers continue to sharpen their skills, using the tools at their disposal to steal people’s information and money. Here are some tips that may help you protect yourself.

Spotting social engineering cues

Looking back at her ordeal, Moya said, “My emotional state absolutely made me more vulnerable to being scammed.” We may not be at our most alert when targeted by a scammer, but we can be informed and learn how to spot social engineering cues.

If you receive a text, call, email, or social media message, take a moment to read it carefully. Is it asking you to click on a link? Are they asking you for sensitive information? Is it urgent? What is the goal? Is it usual for the sender to communicate with you this way? Don’t engage if you think there might be a chance—no matter how slim—that it might be a scam.

Confirming the sources

Always check where the messages you receive come from. If you’re unsure whether the communication you’ve received is legitimate, go directly to your app or online account to check instead of clicking on links.

Also, if someone from customer support calls you and asks you for information, be wary. This is against many companies’ security policies.  You can always call the company or financial institution directly yourself.

Avoiding optimism bias

This year, we conducted a survey in the U.S. and U.K. were more than half (58%) of respondents agreed with the statement, “I could be vulnerable to cybercrime.” Yet, 45% also said that cybercrime won’t happen to them.

We might think that stories like Moya’s are unlikely to happen to us, but no one can be sure. It is best to always stay alert and informed because anyone can be targeted by a scammer. And some scams may be easy to spot—but others aren’t that apparent.

Take extra measures

We can’t help whether we’re targeted by scammers or not, but we can take steps to help protect ourselves. Norton Genie is a free scam detector app that might help you avoid scams you might not spot in the moment.

Don’t let scammers get their way

In the end, Moya was one of the lucky few who managed to get her money back through her financial institution. However, that’s not a common occurrence and it was a hard process.

The best thing we can do is to avoid scammers, so we don’t have to go through such an ordeal. We can help protect ourselves by staying informed and taking extra cybersecurity measures. Stay alert, stay safe.

Check out Moya Crockett’s experience highlighted in Scam Artists, an educational campaign using art to visually demonstrate the emotional impact of cybercrime.

  • Nyrmah J. Reina
  • Managing Editor
Nyrmah J. Reina is a writer and managing editor for the company’s lifestyle blogs. She covers online safety and cybersecurity topics.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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