When it comes to fraud, even celebrities are a target
Andy Cohen opens up about his experience falling victim to an imposter scam.
By ATB Financial 2 February 2024 3 min read
In a recent interview on the TODAY Show, television host Andy Cohen opened up about his experience falling victim to an imposter scam. His experience is a sobering reminder of the prevalence of financial fraud and the importance of vigilance in guarding your personal information. Though he admits he was reluctant to speak out, he also wants to help prevent others from falling prey to these sophisticated fraudsters.
What is an imposter scam?
Imposter scams involve fraudsters impersonating legitimate entities, often government or financial institution representatives, to obtain sensitive information and steal money.
How Andy Cohen fell for one
Cohen’s ordeal began when he lost his debit card. Shortly after, what looked like an email from his bank’s fraud alert department arrived in his inbox. Unfortunately, the email was not genuine. Cohen didn’t notice an oddity in the sender’s address, which is a major sign of a fraud attempt. He clicked on the link and unknowingly granted scammers access to his account details.
When the fraudulent “fraud department” asked for his Apple ID, Cohen recognized a red flag and dismissed the scam. But the scammers were persistent. The next day they sent Cohen a text, again posing as his bank. They “confirmed” the unauthorized access to his account and then called Cohen to review recent charges. It was during this phone conversation that Cohen unknowingly fell for the scam, providing the scammers, posing as his bank, with wire transfer codes.
The imposters added a layer of complexity to the scam by tricking Cohen into setting up call-forward on his phone, which diverted all incoming calls directly to the scammers. When Cohen’s bank called to verify suspicious transactions, the call was forwarded to the scammers, who then impersonated Cohen, telling the bank the illegitimate transactions were real.
The next day, feeling uneasy about what had happened, Cohen visited his bank branch and learned money had been illicitly wired out of his account.
ATB's tips to protect yourself from imposter scams
Cohen is far from alone in falling for a scam like this. Imposter scams are sophisticated and common. The best defence is knowledge. These are our five best tips for protecting yourself:
- Trust your gut: If a communication from an organization doesn't feel right, contact the organization using a phone number or email address that is published on their official website. They can verify if they sent the communication or if you are being contacted by an imposter.
- Look closely at email addresses: Always double-check the sender’s email address before clicking links or providing information. Authentic emails from financial institutions will have the correct domain name (that’s the part of the address after the “@”.)
- Avoid urgency traps: Scammers often use time-sensitive tactics. Resist the pressure to take action and take a moment to independently verify the situation without succumbing to immediate demands.
- Never share personal credentials: Legitimate institutions never ask for personal credentials, such as Apple IDs or passwords, over the phone or via email. Be wary of such requests and always end the conversation if you’re unsure.
- Watch out for call forwarding: Fraudsters often instruct their targets to press specific keys on the phone's keypad or enable call forwarding through the phone's settings. This will redirect incoming calls to the target’s phone to the fraudsters. If someone on a call asks you to press specific numbers (often *71 or *72 followed by the telephone number to which calls should be forwarded) or enable call forwarding on incoming calls, or if you see an active call forwarding prompt or suspect your phone may have call forwarding enabled, contact your mobile provider immediately, ideally with a different phone.
ATB is committed to empowering its clients with the knowledge and guidance they need to safeguard themselves against evolving fraud threats. If you think your personal information has been compromised call us immediately at 1-800-332-8383 and change your online banking username and password. With vigilance and awareness, we can together avoid imposter scams and protect your financial security.
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