Using Your Own Face To Rob You?

A warning for anyone who uses cash apps like Venmo and PayPal on their cell phones.

Criminals are using deadly tactics to steal your money. News Center 7 talked to a mother whose son was drugged and murdered and his accounts were emptied, all with his cellphone.

We have probably all sent a text and seen that it was read, but never received a response back. For Linda Clary, getting no response from her son, John, was a clear sign something was not right.

“It just felt odd. It was not like John,” Clary said.

John Umberger who was a political consultant, disappeared in May 2022 during the Memorial Day weekend after a night out at a gay nightclub in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.

“He, unfortunately, went out on his own, and that’s where he encountered these bad people,” Clary said.

When his body was found days later, his cellphone and credit cards were missing, and $22,000 had been transferred out of his accounts through apps like Venmo and PayPal.

A combination of Fentanyl, cocaine, and other drugs was the cause of his death given by the medical examiner.

“This concept was presented that John had gone to a club, and he had been robbed at the club and had been so depressed and distraught that he came back and took a bunch of drugs. That just would not have been John’s reaction to someone taking those things from him on any level,” Clary said.

And, as a mother she knew and was determined, “for the truth,”

Eventually, it was discovered a second man, Julio Ramirez was also a victim of what’s being called The Roofie Murders. Three known gang members have been indicted for murder in the second degree.

Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg said, “Their motive, we allege, was simple – to make money.”

Clary wants John’s story to be a cautionary tale to others who store everything on their cellphone.

“If you use Face ID, it allows you to become an easier target,” Clary said.

Atlanta FBI Supervisory Special Agent Joseph Zadik said, “The biggest thing you can do is limit what you can do through biometrics.”

He said convenience often comes at a cost.

“So, while it’s very convenient for you, it will also make it very convenient for the criminal if someone gets your phone or if your phone is lost,” Zadik said.

He also said limiting Face ID or thumbprint enables is key.

“For example, you just access your phone and then you can’t access your banking application for that you entered a password,” Zadik said,

And, make sure your setting requires attention for Face ID. Next, he said to switch from a PIN code to a complex password.

“A lot of times people will shoulder surf you. So, if you’re out in a public place, they may look over your shoulder and watch what you type in – that six-digit password, and then when there’s a time when your next paying attention, swipe your phone.” Zadik said.

Clary said she will continue to spread awareness.

“If I did not do something, John would be haunting me every day until I die,” Clary said. “Don’t keep everything on your cell phone. I know that’s inconvenient, but what’s more inconvenient – losing everything and having to deal with it or just having to deal with another device,”

Another way to keep your phone secure, get a hardware key or token to log into your accounts on your phone.

Comments on this article