by Joseph Gresser
No one ever said scammers lacked imagination or were not devious. A current attempt to separate people from their hard-earned cash involves a fake receipt informing the recipient that their Norton anti-virus program has been automatically renewed and the money taken from the recipient’s account.
The message helpfully includes contact information in case the person getting the fake receipt wishes to challenge the amount and get a refund.
A reader of the Chronicle, who understandably does not want his name used, was actually having a problem with the company that sells the Norton program, so his normally suspicious nature was not put on guard.
He got a message saying $592 had been taken from his account to pay for the program. He phoned the number given in the email and got a very helpful person, who said he could easily put the money back into the reader’s account.
The helpful person did not ask for the reader’s bank information, that is not how this scam works. Instead he clicked a few computer keys and came back to tell the reader he had made a bad mistake.
Instead of hitting the dollar sign key, he had hit the five, and therefore accidently deposited $5,592 into the reader’s account.
The reader, naturally enough, suggested the helpful person simply correct the entry, only to be told he did not have authorization to do so. Only a higher ranking person in the company is allowed to remove money from an account, the helpful person informed the reader.
To make matters worse, the mistake was not the first the helpful person had made and if the error was found out he would be fired.
Of course, the reader was sympathetic and asked what could be done. The helpful person suggested that, if the reader sent $5,000 to him, he could replace the money and no one would be the wiser. Since the money was already in the reader’s account, there was no way he could lose.
The best way to do this, the helpful person said, was for the reader to buy $5,000 in gift cards and mail them to him.
Accordingly the reader got in his car and drove to a local market. (The reader currently lives in Massachusetts.) He collected the proper number of gift cards and brought them to the customer service desk at the market.
To his surprise the clerk refused to sell them to the reader. Instead he explained he was on the verge of becoming a victim of a scamster.
The reader thanked the clerk profusely and then went home to write a letter of commendation to his immediate boss and the president of the supermarket company.
As far as is known the helpful person is watching the mail for a fat envelope full of gift cards. Or perhaps he is waiting for an unwary Vermonter to fall for his scheme.