FTC warns of scammers after NY Mag financial columnist loses

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


Published February 16, 2024, 4:37 pm ET

Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan warned the public about scammers after a financial advice columnist in New York Magazine revealed she had handed over $50,000 to a mystery man claiming to be an agency investigator.

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

“No one from the FTC will ever give you an ID number, ask you to verify your Social Security number, ask you how much money you have in your bank account, wire you to a CIA agent, or send you text messages out of the blue.”

Federal Trade Commissioner Lina Khan warned the public in response to a story about a financial advice columnist who was scammed out of $50,000. Portal Charlotte Cowles, financial advice columnist for New York Magazine's The Cut, was scammed out of $50,000. Brian Oh

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

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The first-person account – headlined “The day I put $50,000 in a shoebox and handed it to a stranger: I never thought I'd be the type of person to fall for a scam” – revealed how Cowles of was framed by someone claiming to be “an investigator at the FTC” who “gave me his ID number.”

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

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

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

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

Cowles wrote that she was told she had to delete her old Social Security number and pay the money to the government so she could get a new one.

Cowles wrote that she was deceived on the phone by a man posing as a government agent. Charlotte Cowles/X

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

The Post has reached out to Cowles for comment.

Khan posted a link to an FTC proposal that would impose penalties on those who impersonate government or business officials.

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