Phone scammers impersonate FedEx and target thousands of restaurant workers

BRIGHTON, Colo. (KDVR) – La Estrellita has been in Brighton for 36 years. But just last week, the popular Mexican spot was the target of a well-thought-out scam.

“They called our welcome stand. Our host replied, who is only 15, said Gina Von Ah, the owner of La Estrellita.

Von Ah said last Thursday that scammers called posing as FedEx and told the hostess they had received a delivery from its general manager Crystal. She said the scammers even knew the names of several employees.

“They told her that Crystal had a surprise for our other two employees, whose names they mentioned,” Von Ah said. The “surprise delivery” was for the current service manager, Von Ah said.

Phone scam asks for money via card or app

Von Ah said the hostess was on the phone with the scammers for almost an hour, when she thought she was trying to help her manager. She said sometimes during the call the scammers would pretend to be on the other line with her manager.

“They said, ‘Wait a minute, wait, Crystal is calling right now. Let me answer that and get back to you. Then said, “She’s wondering if you can use your credit card and she’ll refund you as soon as she gets here,” Von Ah said.

The hostess, she claims, tried to send $1,000 through a third-party app the scammers asked her to download. But Von Ah said the hostess card wouldn’t work, so she asked another employee, a male waiter, to help her.

“Host Venmo paid him $1,000. Then they (the scammers) took the $3,000 out of his account,” Von Ah said.

The scammers then started asking for more money, and that’s when the employees told Von Ah that something was wrong. She said they hung up and called her bank immediately to reverse the charge, but by then she said it was too late because the money had been sent through a third-party app.

“These kids are good kids. They didn’t deserve this,” Von Ah said.

Von Ah started a GoFundMe to help collect the $3,000 for the employees. If you would like to donate, you can do so here.

How scammers target unintended victims

FOX31 and Channel 2 asked the Better Business Bureau how scammers make something like this happen.

BBB’s Keylen Villagrana said that given the con artist’s elaborate backstory, they really took their time to learn all the ins and outs of the business – most likely using more than one tactic and a tool :

  • Phishing. An employee may have clicked on a phishing email that downloaded malware/virus that captures sensitive company information. Their email accounts may have been exposed and the scammer could see the employee’s plan to take time off out of the country.
  • Social media accounts. Once the scammer knows the full names of the employees and their employer, he may have looked them up on social media and matched the dots. Some consumers share more intricate details on their social media than others (we always recommend posting vacation information until you’ve taken it or double-checking privacy settings.)
  • They may have used additional methods such as call or email “as a customer” to learn the roles of each. OR it is possible that the scammer is someone the company or its employees know personally.

The BBB also transmitted a link to help protect your small business.

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