FTC warns of scammers after NY Mag financial columnist loses $50,000 in 'phishing' scam

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Federal Trade Commissioner Chairwoman Lina Khan warned the public about scammers after the New York magazine financial advice columnist revealed she handed over $50,000 to a mystery man who claimed to be an investigator for the agency.

“Being the victim of a scam can be devastating,” Khan posted on X.

“No one from the FTC will ever give you a badge number, ask you to confirm your Social Security number, ask how much money is in your bank account, turn you over to a CIA agent, or text you out of the blue.”

Federal Trade Commissioner Lena Khan warned the public in response to a story about a financial advice columnist being scammed out of $50,000. Reuters
Charlotte Cowles, a financial advice columnist for New York magazine's The Cut, was scammed out of $50,000. Brian Ash

Khan said Americans lost $2.7 billion last year to phishing, or voice phishing, in which scammers impersonate government agents over the phone.

Her Thursday post on X came hours after Charlotte Cowles' appearance She posted her disturbing story on The Cutthe digital fashion news site that operates under the umbrella of New York Magazine.

The first-person account — titled “The Day I Put $50,000 in a Shoebox and Handed It to a Stranger: I Never Thought I Was the Kind to Fall for a Scam” — revealed how Cowles was conned by someone claiming to be “an investigator for Federal Trade Commission” who “gave me his badge number.”

The “FTC investigator” also claimed to know Cowles' Social Security number, home address, and date of birth.

The man also claimed Cowles had 22 bank accounts, nine cars and four properties registered in her name.

The man told Cowles she was wanted for arrest in two states in connection with the disappearance of a woman who had rented one of the vehicles in Cowles' name.

The columnist, who feared she was a victim of identity theft, withdrew $50,000 in cash from the bank and handed it to a courier who showed up in a white Mercedes near her Brooklyn apartment.

Cowles wrote that she was told she needed to close her old Social Security number and pay the government cash so she could get a new number.

Cowles wrote that she was scammed by a man over the phone who pretended to be a government agent. Charlotte Cowles/X

Once she delivered, she would be sent a check under her new Social Security number thus restoring her identity, she was told.

The Post requested comment from Cowles.

Khan posted a link to an FTC proposal that would impose penalties on those posing as government officials or business people.

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