Scams target businesses, hotel guests

Scams target businesses, hotel guests

August 15, 2017 3:00 AM


P.T. Barnum has been credited with saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” though the quote really came from David Hannum who was commenting on one of Barnum’s “promotion schemes.” Sadly the phrase has become a part of the mantra of various scammers and conmen.

In the old days conmen would have to meet their marks and work them face to face. However, with today’s technology scams and cons can originate from almost anywhere in the world and take many forms to keep on tricking their victims.

Key to scams though is a little bit of information. An understanding that people by nature are confrontation avoiders, a bit of understanding of how particular systems work to establish credibility, and off the conmen go in search of a gullible victim.

Recently two different types of scams came to my attention by way of resort executives, one a modification of a computer scam that started making the rounds eight years ago and the second a phone scam that apparently was first used in Asia and finally made it here.

The first, a twist on an old Microsoft virus scam, starts with a random call. The caller claims to be from Microsoft and has noted the answering person’s computer is under some form of hack attack. In the original scam they would just try and get the victim to buy fake anti-virus software or cleaning services, quickly taking the money and running.

The current twist is they claim they are with Microsoft security, are not selling anything, provide return phone numbers and try to get the victim to allow them remote access into the victim’s computer.

In the past they preferred to target individuals, in this version they are happy to hit anyone answering, an individual or a business. They quickly adjust their pitch, and enhance their credibility by not asking for money or passwords. They simply try and get the victim to allow remote access to their computer. Once in they can perpetrate any number of scams ranging from simply stealing data to imbedding a virus or malware for later abuses.

Without divulging too much and causing embarrassments, a marketing executive, who told me of their experience, was working on editing their property’s customer list for a promotional mailing when they took such a call. They bought into the call and started going down the rabbit hole, allowing remote access to their computer. Then they realized their company’s IT department should be handling the problem. Imagine the havoc the conmen could have caused if they obtained the property’s player list.

In the second scam, the scammer simply gets the name of a hotel guest. This can be done by listening in at valet parking, the bell desk or any of a wide range of places where the guest needs give their name, or even by checking social media for people posting pictures or stories of their arrival at a resort property.

Once a name is obtained, the scammer calls the guest’s room through the hotel operator. When the guest answers, the conman pretends to be from the front desk, saying there was a problem with their credit card, and simply asks for a read back of the credit card number, expiration date and security code so they can clear up the error without requiring the guest to return to the front desk. Once obtained the scammer goes wild on the victim’s credit card number.

A sad loss for Vegas

On a very different note, as the world knows, music legend and superstar Glen Campbell recently passed away. I had the pleasure to meet Mr. Campbell back in June of 1975 when he appeared at what was then the Las Vegas Hilton (now the Westgate). At the time I was mindlessly whistling an old obscure European folk tune.

Though I cannot claim we were friends our paths crossed a few more times over the ensuing years. On each of those occasions he either played or whistled that same tune back to me, which spoke to his musical genius. Never having learned to read music, because he did not need to, if Mr. Campbell heard a tune once he could play it perfectly from then on.

He was quick to smile, always had time for a fan and always had more than one or two kind words for the people he was engaging with. I never saw him conduct himself as anything other than a super talented good ole boy that seemed to enjoy his fans as much as they enjoyed him.

Sadly we have to say good-bye to this extraordinary gentleman who was also a contributor in making Las Vegas an entertainment capital.