Siglinde Skysworn

Sargatanas (Aether)

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  • 15

Scamming IRL and In-Game

On a Sunday some time ago, I received a phone call from an unfamiliar number.

"Is this Siggy?" they asked.

I said yes, and asked who this was.

"This is Bank XYZ," the guy on the other end said. Apparently, I had unsettled credit card bills with Bank XYZ of $10,000 or so that were over 6 months overdue, and the bank was about to start bankruptcy proceedings unless I paid up.

Now, this is alarming news, especially since I do not have an account with Bank XYZ. If someone is able to open an account there in my name and apply for a credit card, which requires all kinds of highly sensitive info such as payslips from my employer, then I might be dealing with a serious case of identity theft. But I immediately realized 2 strange things:

1) Banks are very serious about getting their money back from you. If I really do owe Bank XYZ $10,000, there's no way they would wait 6 months to contact me, especially since they will know my contact info. In fact, there was one time I forgot to pay my credit card bill on time, and just 3 days later I received a very polite text reminding me about it (and also got slapped with a late payment charge).

2) As serious as they are about getting their money back, banks are not open on Sunday! Nothing stops them from suing my behind off on Monday instead!

Suspicious, I asked, "what branch are you calling from?"

The guy said, "Bank XYZ HQ."

So I said, "Alright, I'm busy right now, so I'll call your HQ back directly," thinking I would call the next day, Monday, before doing anything. I did check just in case, sure enough, Bank XYZ's customer support was Mon-Friday. The funny thing is, 30 mins later, I received a call from a different number claiming to be Bank XYZ HQ, and that confirmed beyond all doubt that I was dealing with a scammer. I hung up at once, and when I did call Bank XYZ on Monday, of course I had no credit card with them.

* * *

Apparently, I had been the target of a common financial scam. The next step for the scammer would have been to direct the victim to speak with an alleged anti-fraud agency officer, who would confirm that the victim had suffered identity theft and their bank accounts had to be investigated as a result, and that the victim had to transfer their money into a different account for these investigations, or be detained for interrogation. Any such money transferred out of the victim's account would never be seen again.

This incident got me thinking about financial scams and frauds, and I did some research on the issue, reading about common frauds, and testimony from victims of scamming attempts. Even as someone with a layperson's interest in human psychology, I was chilled to see how effectively scammers were able to manipulate their victims and short-circuit normal decision-making processes.

For example, a common technique is to put the victim in a state of panic and under some time pressure. The scammer will claim to be from some government agency, or an acting officer of a court, etc. and say that there is a case pending against the victim, that he/she has less than an hour to respond to. This makes the victim panic, and therefore reduces their ability to think rationally. This is why, when confronted with any threat of legal or police action by phone, you should never agree to take any action or give out any personal information in response over the phone. No serious lawsuit or governmental action will be done over a mere phone call. Get them to put it in writing, and when it appears in your mailbox, lawyer up, and if they don't put it in writing then you know it is not real.

But other techniques can be used to attack the victim, such as the classic scam where the scammer claims to be calling on behalf of a relative who is injured and hospitalized, and asks for some huge sum of money to pay for emergency medical treatment. Deepfake technology can be used to make the scammer's voice sound like someone you know, and the caller ID can be spoofed to make it look like the call comes from a trusted phone number. This is why it's also important to get independent confirmation of shocking news from several trusted sources before taking any drastic action. The more serious the news is, the more confirmation should be required.

This is also why a common technique of scammers is to try and isolate the victim and prevent them from talking to third parties until the scam succeeds. Usually, privacy laws or legal restrictions will be cited, e.g. the scammer, masquerading as a police officer, will tell the victim not to divulge details to anyone else, including their relatives or friends, as the case is still under investigation. In a phone scam, the victim may be instructed not to hang up, and the scammers may constantly question and engage the victim to prevent them interacting with others. Another technique sometimes used is to keep getting the victim to do simple tasks (like copying down a case number, giving their address, answering simple questions, or repeating back what the scammer says to confirm they heard it correctly, etc.). This gets the victim in the mindset of complying with the scammer's instructions, and makes them less likely to question what they are being told to do.

Considering the depth of the scammer's arsenal, in retrospect, I was lucky I was attacked by a newbie who was not yet very good at his job. By the way, I recommend you read up on social engineering, and more generally the art of psychological manipulation, so that you can identify these techniques being used on you.

I was reminded of all this because today, I received an in-game tell from someone claiming to be giving away all their stuff. Needless to say, it's another scam! Don't visit the page and enter your password!

(Image is a screenshot from someone else, but it's the same tell I received.)

Falling victim to FFXIV phishing scams is a small matter. You won't be able to play for a couple days while SE does a rollback on your account, but in the end you'll get your gil and items back. Even if you lose the account completely, in the grand scheme of things, a lost FFXIV account is still not a big deal.

However, if you lose your lifetime savings to a scammer, there will be no rollback, and your life plans (e.g. retirement or buying a house or car) will be seriously affected. Especially in these economically difficult times, where criminals are more active then ever, it's important to protect yourself and be aware of the lengths unscrupulous people will take to get your money.

And no matter the reason or who tells you to - whether it's the FBI, CIA, Interpol or MIB - don't give out your OTP for any banking transactions!
Comments (15)

Sigurd De-mizar

Phoenix (Light)

Some years ago I got an email confirmation for my subscription to Amazon prime at £79/yr. I never subscribed to it, so I hit the link provided in the email to cancel. When I typed in my login and password, I remembered my Amazon account use a different email address.

I immediately go to the real Amazon page, changed my password, setup two step authentication, removed my payment detail and contact Amazon support desk. I didn't lose any money but it was a stressful experience.

Sigurd De-mizar

Phoenix (Light)

Scammers are getting very smart these days. Often I don't take call from unknown numbers.

For email, I have got emails saying my pc get virus, your account in this bank or that shopping site has been compromised, please login this link to reset your password (scam link to harvest your actual login/password). If you get panic and rush into it, the chance of you getting scammed is high.

Annabel Ashcroft

Faerie (Aether)

Anyone with a bit of internet savy and awareness should be able to see that was not a legit link in that chat.

People, if you see ANYTHING weird in the link, such as:, it is NOT a proper link! A true link will not have that crap in it. If someone sends you a link to something in an email, just hover your mouse over the link and it will reveal the true address it is going to.

Vigilance people, vigilance.

Annabel Ashcroft

Faerie (Aether)

Also, for phone calls, get something for your cell phone that screens calls.

I have 'Should I answer', (it's the one with the octopus), and it has been WONDERFUL with blocking crap calls. You have to train it to tell it if a call is bad if it's not in the main database, but once you do it stops a lot of crap. I have the free version, but I should really throw them a few bucks and buy the pro version since it works so well.

Lalli Physalis

Sargatanas (Aether)

I once read an article I found very interesting about how most IRL scams were designed to be imperfect. Like, receiving emails from a well-known company or bank with the logo the wrong color, or full of spelling mistakes, or obvious JPEG artifacts. Or phone calls from a bank on a Sunday.

Apparently it's a lot of work to get a person to the point where they fork over their money, seeing as the scam can fail anytime, so the goal is to weed out all but the most panicked, compliant people.

Esper Eidolon

Diabolos (Crystal)

We get a lot of phone calls about social security numbers and this is your final warning ⚠️ for whatever and we’ve been trying to contact you about your car loan.

All of which I could easily tell you is a bunch of bull.

Happily I don’t deal with those calls because any bank of mine knows not to call me due to me being mute.

I’m sure this sends older people in a panic often however. Some whom don’t have the ability remember things. That’s the disturbing part to me

Esper Eidolon

Diabolos (Crystal)

There are also a lot of people whom are in massive debt to begin with.

Scaring those people works. If I was not in a good place myself I could see me falling for some of this stuff. However there is a lot of easy ways to tell.

For one, when a recording calls and states the irs is suing you and leaves a number, trust me, the irs isn’t going to call your phone if they have an issue with you. They know where you live

Sugar Puff

Siren (Aether)

I would use common sense over anything else but one thing that stands out to me about phone scams is how (in my experience anyway) none of them have implemented the standard "this call may be monitered, and so on, blah, blah, blah" recording.

Regardless, I only give out personal information over the phone if I'm the one who initiated contact.

Runa Caliburn

Brynhildr (Crystal)

This is why I don't pick up the phone on numbers that aren't labeled in contacts.

Pandora Demew

Omega (Chaos)

I would recommended to everyone to get in touch with your landline or service provider (for mobile phones) and ask them to add a shield to your landline or mobile. It basically before connecting the call to you takes the number of the caller and asks them to give their name, and basically asks you if you want to speak to this person, if you dont know them press the button for no, and then it gives you the option to block the number.

Pandora Demew

Omega (Chaos)

Also Im more thinking of older people here, like players parents, and grandparents, people who are possibly not as aware to scams as our generation is, I know older generations dont realize that its not so safe to answer the phone to everyone anymore because it once was.

I myself dont answer any call that is from a number that's not on my contacts.

Siglinde Skysworn

Sargatanas (Aether)

@Sigurd, Isolde, You're both right, one advice I have also heard is not to take phone calls from unfamiliar numbers. It's a great idea, after all, if they can't talk to you in the first place, they can't scam you. Unfortunately I can't do this due to work requirements!

While most people might be able to see through it, there are always vulnerable people, the elderly, the less well-informed, and people who might be going through life issues and not very emotionally stable, etc.

Siglinde Skysworn

Sargatanas (Aether)

@Annabel I think I should look into that! When last I looked, a lot of those services did not work well for non-US numbers. It would be real nice if they've improved since then.

@Lalli, that actually sounds plausible. Because from what I have heard sometimes these scams can involve hours of talking over the phone as the victim is told to withdraw money from various accounts and even redeem money from financial instruments etc.

Siglinde Skysworn

Sargatanas (Aether)

@Espy you're right. Especially given this is the year where nobody had a good time (unless your name is Jeff Bezos), there are more people vulnerable than ever.

Retirees are some of their favorite victims, and in my country, it is not uncommon to hear people scammed of their life savings, but even highly educated people are also not immune.

This comment has been deleted.

Siglinde Skysworn

Sargatanas (Aether)

@Sugar Puff, I did read one victim testimony where they were told not to hang up because otherwise the recording software would not work correctly. But yes, it's rarely a good idea to give out too much info over the phone.

@Runa Caliburn, you're right! That said, I'm occasionally required to take work-related calls (and my workplace is being cheap and won't issue me a work phone, haha).
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