Horror stories of people getting scammed out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars aren’t in short supply. As we scroll through the news app from the comfort of our couch, reading these accounts of how a stupid so-and-so opened an obviously suspicious attachment and a hacker drained their bank account, it’s easy to say things like “I’d never fall for that!” But would you?

The sobering truth is that, under the right conditions and with the right threat, anyone can fall victim to a financially devastating scam. This reality was recently demonstrated when a finance guru, someone armed with enough financial acumen to publicly advise others, lost $50,000 to a scammer pretending to be a CIA agent.

Charlotte Cowles, a seasoned financial advice columnist for New York Magazine’s digital fashion news site, The Cut, wrote a first-person account of how she boxed up $50,000 in cash in a shoebox, walked it out to the sidewalk in front of her house and willingly handed it over to an unknown person in a white Mercedes SUV. Looking back, she was humiliated that she couldn’t see the red flags, but the way these criminals intricately plotted every step would have convinced most people.

I suggest giving her detailed story a read, but to give you the nutshell version, this elaborate scam started early in the day when a woman from “Amazon’s customer service” called to inquire about unusual activity on Charlotte’s account. The woman told her this has been a frequent issue for the company, provided a case number ID and recommended Charlotte check her credit cards immediately. She shared that the issue was so prevalent that the company was working with a liaison at the Federal Trade Commission and offered to refer her to him for additional assistance.

Once connected, the FTC agent provided his badge number for reassurance and a direct number to reach him at, and confirmed personal details like her full name and Social Security number. Convincing, right? That’s when things took a turn. The agent shared that he had been following her case for some time, and to date, there were 22 bank accounts, nine vehicles and four properties registered under her name. The bank accounts had wired more than $3 million overseas, mostly to Jamaica and Iraq, and he wondered if she could tell him anything about this.

This crazy scheme escalated from there. The agent texted her a photo of her ID, claiming it had been found in a car rented under her name that was abandoned on the southern border of Texas with blood and drugs in the trunk and was linked to an even bigger drug raid. He told her there were warrants out for her arrest in multiple states and that she was facing heavy charges of cybercrime, money laundering and drug trafficking.

She frantically googled her name, looking for any warrants. Nothing. Sensing her rising discomfort, he asked if she had recently used public WiFi. She had, at the airport. “Ahh…” he said, “that’s how most of these things start.”

As she texted her husband that she was in serious trouble, the agent offered her a solution, but she could tell no one. Everyone was a suspect, and they were watching her every move. The agent said her laptop was hacked, her home was being watched and they could even see her two-year-old son playing in the living room right now. At the mention of her son, she was all in to resolve the problem. Sadly, you know the heartbreaking ending of the story. She drained her savings and hand-delivered it in a floral-printed shoebox to the scammer.

Here’s the real kicker: if Cowles, armed with financial acumen and a journalist’s skepticism, can be led astray, what chance do the rest of us stand? It’s a digital Wild West out there, folks, and the outlaws are on the prowl, looking for their next big score. This tale isn’t just a wake-up call – it’s a blaring siren for small business owners everywhere. If you think you’re too smart to get scammed, think again, because it’s happening all the time.

When Charlotte began to share her story, everyone seemed to know someone who had gone up against a scammer and lost. One friend’s criminal-defense-attorney father had been scammed out of $1.2 million. Another was a real estate developer duped into wiring $450,000 to someone posing as one of his contractors. Even a Wall Street executive, who had been conned into draining her 401(k) by a guy she met at a bar. These stories are everywhere.

Cyber security cannot be ignored. With the AI tools available, scams are becoming more and more difficult to identify. If you want to protect yourself, your family and your business, you absolutely MUST take your security seriously. Every day, hackers are buying and selling personal information, like Charlotte’s Social Security number, on the dark web to hackers who will use it to run scams just like this one. You or your loved ones could be next.

This ISN’T meant to scare you, although it should; it’s meant to educate you and give you the upper hand to go up against these criminals. To protect what’s yours. The best way we can help is to offer a FREE Cyber Security Risk Assessment. We’ll do an in-depth evaluation of your network’s security system, including scanning the dark web for leaked information, and provide you with a comprehensive report of what you need to do to be secure.

You can book your Assessment with one of our experts for FREE by going to https://go.appointmentcore.com/book/ADgjECx or calling 860-399-1244.