The FBI is warning consumers to be on the alert for scammers who tie up their phone lines while emptying their bank accounts, WalletPop reports.

High-tech criminals are now using automated dialing programs and multiple accounts to overwhelm the phone lines of unsuspecting consumers and small- and medium-sized businesses.

The denial-of-service calls, which can include dead air, advertisements or phone sex menus, are actually diversionary tactics designed to tie up a victim’s phone lines. And while the lines are busy, the fraudsters — impersonating the victims — raid their bank accounts, online trading and other money management accounts.

Weeks or even months before the phone calls start, the FBI warns, a criminal uses social engineering tactics or malware to extract personal information such as passwords and account numbers from intended victims. Once the scam artists have enough information, they tie up the victim’s various phone lines and either contact a financial institution pretending to be the victim or siphon off funds from their online bank accounts.

Financial institutions typically call to verify such transactions, but can’t get through due to the denial-of-service attack. If the transactions aren’t approved, the criminals will contact the financial institution, pose as the victim and confirm the transactions. They can also add their own phone number to victims’ accounts, and simply wait for the bank to call and request approval. By the time the victim or financial institution realizes what has happened, it’s too late.

To avoid being a victim of this new scam, go here.

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