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How a Tech Support Scam cost a White House Scientist her Life Savings

December 20, 2023
min read
The front of the White House lit up at night

A Cautionary Tale on Tech Support Cyber Scams

The Article

Frances Sharples' story, as reported in the Washington Post, serves as a sobering reminder of the sophisticated nature of cyber scams and their devastating impact on individuals. Sharples, a seasoned science adviser, fell victim to a meticulously orchestrated scam that stripped her of her life savings. This incident not only highlights the evolving tactics of cybercriminals but also underscores the vulnerability of even the most meticulous and educated individuals.

The Scam

Sharples’ ordeal began with a classic tech support scam, a tactic that has seen a staggering increase in reported losses over recent years. The scammers' approach was calculated and insidious, exploiting technological glitches to instigate fear and urgency. By manipulating her trust in well-known institutions, like Microsoft and her credit union, they crafted a narrative that was alarmingly believable. This case exemplifies the level of sophistication that modern scammers employ, leveraging both technology and psychological manipulation to achieve their ends.

When being contacted by a tech support representative:

  • Never click on links
  • Never share personal information
  • Never pay money


  • Hang up and reach out to the organization through a different, direct communication channel

Staying Safe

Frances Sharples' encounter with cybercrime is a potent reminder of the ongoing battle against cyber scams. It reinforces the need for continuous innovation in scam detection and prevention technologies. As scammers evolve, so must our strategies to counter them. Our commitment at Catch is not just to protect but to educate, ensuring our users are equipped to identify and avoid the sophisticated traps set by modern cybercriminals. Remember, in the digital age, your first line of defense is awareness and proactive protection but support is always helpful.

Here’s how Catch can support:

  • 24/7 monitoring of incoming messages
  • Point of contact, clear detection and warning
  • Guidance for users to diffuse and recover

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