CHICAGO (CBS) — In a discreet office in Oakbrook Terrace, special agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigate cyber fraud, the kind of scams that cost Americans millions every year, the kind of scams CBS 2 reports on every morning.
Morning Insider Tim McNicholas got access to that building to ask agents what you should look out for.
READ MORE: Officer Recalls Conversation With Little Girl Seen In Social Media Post: ‘She Said I Was Her Best Friend’
There’s Al, the Joliet man with a broken heart thanks to a fictional online lover/real life scammer.
“We were supposed to get married, and all the money I sent, she was going to pay me back from the $200,000 inheritance that she had in Canada,” he said.
Or the senior in Carol Stream man who learned a supposed Amazon fraud alert was actually from a fraudster.
“I’d hate to use the term gullible, but I guess in this case I certainly was,” said Mick McNeil.
The Morning Insiders have showed time and time again that the World Wide Web is full of surprises.
“Anybody could be anybody on the internet,” said Special Agent Aaron Urbaniak, who has seen it all and then some.
“Bad guys buying personal information on the dark web,” he said. “We have a large amount of phishing going on.”
“Dating scams are definitely on top of the list,” he added.
Urbaniak said the pandemic has kept the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Chicago cybercrimes task force busy.
READ MORE: Logan Square Couple’s Christmas Plans Cancelled Miles From Their Home Due To Positive COVID Test
“There’s more of an opportunity, and a better excuse for these people not to want to meet, especially on the dating sites. They’re not wanting to meet in person, and they have a viable excuse,” Urbaniak said.
And that excuse is working. Federal investigators say Americans lost more than $133 million to romance scams in the first seven months of this year.
Last year’s total? A record $300 million.
“You just need to leery that they’re going to start asking you for money, and not to provide your personal information to people you meet over the internet,” Urbaniak said.
But those aren’t the only scams that will break your heart.
With the holiday season around the corner, Urbaniak urges shoppers to look closely any emails or messages you get.
Scammers often pose as online retailers, or even banks, claiming there’s fraud on your account; only to trick you into giving out valuable personal information.
“Go directly to that bank, go directly to your app,” Urbaniak said. “Call their customer service to verify the legitimacy.”
Retail experts forecast record online sales this holiday season, and all those gifts could make your bank records more confusing.
MORE NEWS: Stores Reopen As Oak Brook Police Search For Suspect Involved In Shooting At Oak Brook Mall
Urbaniak says you should always keep a close watch on your transactions and flag anything unusual with your bank, or you could end up saying bah humbug.