Scam of the day – July 11, 2017 – Another Delta Airlines Facebook scam

It was just eight days ago that I warned you about a scam involving Delta Airlines’ Skymiles program where people were being tricked into providing personal information about their Skymile accounts that is then used for purposes of identity theft.

Now a new scam involving Delta Airlines is appearing on Facebook in which you are told that Delta is giving away free airline tickets to celebrate its 88th birthday.  However this is a scam.  The Facebook posting asks you to like and share the post as well as complete a survey in order to get your tickets.  However, there are no free tickets and if you complete the survey, you turn over information to a scammer who can use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

Here is a reproduction of what appears on your Facebook page.

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A good starting point for recognizing that this is a scam is the fact that Delta Airlines is 93 years old so it is a bit late to be celebrating its 88th birthday.  It is also important to know that Delta only makes legitimate offers on its own official websites.

These types of scams entice people to share and like the posting in order to take advantage of Facebook’s algorithms that value the popularity of postings measured by likes and shares which then appear on the Facebook pages of more people.  Scammers are able to change the content of what is shared or liked to something entirely different through a technique called “farming.”  This is often done in order to send advertising or gather marketing information, but it also can be done to send malware infected content that can steal personal information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

When you see one of these “too good to be true” offers, the best course of action is to check with the company’s legitimate website where you will learn whether or not the offer is indeed legitimate.

Scam of the day – July 10, 2017 – Phony job interview scam

Recently a number of companies including the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) have been reporting their company’s names are being used for phony job interviews being conducted by Skype in which the sole purpose of the interview is for a scammer to obtain personal information to be used to make the person who thinks he or she is participating in a legitimate job interview a victim of identity theft.

Part of the problem with this scam is that companies are using Skype for legitimate job interviews.  Fortunately, there are some telltale signs to warn you if the interview is a real interview or an identity theft trap.

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If you are contacted about a job interview to be conducted by Skype when you have not applied for the job, you should immediately become skeptical.

While some states permit prospective employers to ask for Social Security numbers on job applications, you should also be skeptical if you are asked for that information early in the job application process and certainly no employer needs bank account information from you prior to your being hired.  Before doing a Skype job interview, contact the real company’s HR department to confirm that the Skype interview is real.

Scam of the day – July 9, 2017 – New international consumer protection network established

One of the problems with taking action after you have become a victim of a scam is the international nature of many scams that originate in far away countries.  In an effort to reduce that problem, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the federal agency that helps protect consumers from scams, has joined with the consumer protection agencies of more than sixty other countries to form the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN).  Through ICPEN, consumer protection authorities around the world will be able to readily share information as well as encourage cooperation among law enforcement agencies in the countries that make up ICPEN.   Victims of international scams can also file complaints at ICPEN’s online complaint site.

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For more information about ICPEN, you can go to its website at www.icpen.org and to file a complaint, you can go to its online lcomplaint site at www.econsumer.gov where complaints can be filed in eight languages.

Scam of the day – July 8, 2017 – Mystery shopper text message scam

I have been warning you about mystery shopper scams for years, however what makes today’s mystery shopper scam so timely is that originates with a text message.  More and more scams are now being sent to targeted victims through their cell phones rather than just by email which reflects the increased use of all of us of our smart phones.

Mystery shoppers are people hired to shop at a particular store and report on the shopping experience for purposes of quality control.  Unlike many scams, there actually are legitimate mystery shopper companies, but they never advertise or recruit through emails.

The manner in which the scam works is that when you answer an advertisement, an email or now a text message to become a mystery shopper and you are sent a bank check to deposit and use for your shopping.  You spend some of the money on the goods that you purchase which you are allowed to keep and also are directed to keep some of the balance of the check as payment for your services.   You are instructed to return the remaining funds by a wire transfer.  The problem is that the check is counterfeit, but the money you send by wire from your own bank account is legitimate and that money is gone from your bank account forever.

The new text message version of the scam, which was sent to me by a Scamicide reader who fortunately recognized the scam before she became a victim begins with a text message inquiry about whether the intended victim is available for a “personal assistant job offer” and then gives an email address for the intended victim to contact.  If you contact the sender of the text message, you are prompted to provide some personal information and then told in a subsequent email that you qualified for the mystery shopper job and would be sent a package with further information.

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One reason why this scam fools so many people is that there really are mystery shopping jobs although the actual number is quite few and they do not go looking for you. An indication that you are involved with a scam is when you receive a check for more than what is owed you and you are asked to wire the difference back to the sender.  This is the basis of many scams.  Whenever you receive a check, wait for your bank to tell you that the check has fully cleared before you consider the funds as actually being in your account.  Don’t rely on provisional credit  which is given after a few days, but which can be rescinded once a check bounces and never accept a check for more than what is owed with the intention to send back the rest.  That is always a scam.  Also be wary whenever you are asked to wire funds because this is a common theme in many scams because it is difficult to trace and impossible to stop.

Additionally, this particular scam email was sent by the email address of a person entirely unrelated to any mystery shopping company which is generally an indication that you are getting the email sent from an unsuspecting victim of an email hacking whose email address is now being used as a part of a botnet of similarly hacked computers to send out scam emails such as this.

Scam of the day – July 7, 2017 – FTC shuts down scam business coaching programs

Business coaches, who are people that advise and guide business owners in the operating and growing of their businesses, can be quite helpful, particularly to entrepreneurs.  However, scammers posing as business coaches have been taking advantage of trusting business owners by selling worthless services to their unwary victims.

Recently the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled charges against seven people and the eight companies they controlled that provided phony coaching services.  Under the terms of the settlements, these people and their companies are now banned from selling  business coaching services and work-at-home opportunities.

Here are links to the two complaints that name the specific defendants.

https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/guidance_complaint_1_lift_international.pdf?utm_source=govdelivery

https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/guidance_complaint_2_thrive_learning.pdf?utm_source=govdelivery

Using various deceptive sales tactics, the phony business coaches promised their victims that if they took what was alleged to be personalized training programs provided by the scammers, they would earn substantial income through Internet based work-at-home businesses, but none of the promises were true.  Personal information turned over to the scammers was also passed on to other scammers who targeted the victims for more business related scams.

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Before hiring the services of a business coach, you may want to find out what helpful advice you can get for free through government agencies such as the Small Business Administration.   www.sba.gov/starting-managing-business

If you do decide to hire a business coach, you should find out if there are any complaints filed against him or her.  An easy way to do this is to just do a search engine search in which you look up the person’s name with the words “scam” or “complaint” and see what comes up.

Also, be wary of paying up front for the services of business coaches before they provide any services.

Scam of the day – July 6, 2017 – FTC mailing refunds to victims of DeVry University scam

For profit universities have been a target of state and federal investigations for years.  I have written about this topic since 2012.  It should be noted that not all for profit colleges are scams, but there are a large number of for profit colleges, sometimes referred to as “diploma mills” that at times offer credit for your “life experience” and lure students in with promises of a helpful degree, but the students end up with a worthless degree and an empty wallet.  Sometimes the names of these scamming colleges and universities are confusingly similar to legitimate colleges.  For instance, Columbia State University is a diploma mill while Columbia University is an eminent Ivy League school.

In February of 2016 I told you about the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit against  DeVry University alleging that the university’s advertising, particularly as it related to their graduates’ opportunities for getting a job after graduation were false and deceptive. Specifically, DeVry made the false claims that 90% of its graduates got jobs within six months of graduation and that its graduates had 15% higher incomes a year after graduation than the graduates of other colleges. Now that lawsuit has been settled.

As a part of its 100 million dollar settlement with the FTC, DeVry has agreed to pay 49.4 million dollars for partial refunds to some students and 50.6 million dollars of debt forgiveness for loans made to students by DeVry.

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If you attended DeVry University and want to find out if you qualify for the refunds, check out the “FTC Scam Refunds” tab at the top of this page. You also can find there information about the mailing of the refund checks.

If you are considering attending a for profit school, first check it out with the United States Department of Education’s website at www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation to make sure it is an accredited institution.

You also should investigate whether a local college, university or community college would be more cost effective for you.  For profit colleges and universities are often more expensive than these other alternatives without offering any distinct advantages.  Also, check out the graduation rates of any for profit college you are considering and finally, investigate the job prospects in your field of study.  Don’t just take the word of the college.

Scam of the day – July 5, 2017 – IRS private collection scams

Many people have been scammed by criminals calling them on the phone purporting to be from the IRS making various threats unless the targeted victim immediately pays alleged overdue taxes.  For years, I have been telling people that the simplest way to know that the person calling you is not from the IRS is to remember that the IRS will never initiate contact with a taxpayer about overdue taxes through a phone call.  But that has changed.  In 2016 I told you about a new law Congress passed requiring the IRS to use the services of private collection agencies to collect some outstanding taxes.  This law is flawed on many levels including, as was pointed out by the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, the fact that this program not only had been tried unsuccessfully twice previously, but also is not cost effective.  But from my perspective, perhaps the greatest problem with this new law is that it increases the likelihood of scammers being able to pose as tax collectors and lure unsuspecting victims into paying these scammers money.

The law has now gone into effect and the IRS is sending letters by regular mail to people whose overdue tax accounts have been turned over to one of the four private collection agencies authorized by Congress to collect overdue taxes for the IRS.  The IRS is also at this time warning people to be wary of people claiming to be working for one of these companies who are, in truth, just scammers.  Of course, the IRS did not give any concrete advice as to how to know if the caller is legitimate or not.

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As I have often said, whenever you get a phone call, you can never be sure who is really on the other end of the line.  Even your Caller ID can be fooled by a technique called Spoofing by which it can be made to appear that your call is coming from someone other than the real caller.  It is for this reason that I advise you never to give out personal information such as your Social Security number or credit card information to anyone who calls you on the phone unless you have absolutely confirmed that they are legitimate.  In the case of a call from someone purporting to be collecting a debt on behalf of the IRS, you should not give them any information or agree to do anything on the phone.  Ask them to send you written information about the alleged debt and then call the IRS to find out if the debt is legitimate or not.

In addition, the debts assigned to the private collection agencies are tax debts that are many years old and about which the taxpayer would have been contacted by mail previously by the IRS.  Also, be aware that none of the Congress authorized collectors will ask you to make a payment by credit card over the phone and certainly not ask you to wire money or pay by an iTunes card or gift card as some tax scammers have done.

Scam of the day – July 4, 2017 – JobLink data breach update

JobLink is a database managed by Job Link Alliance that maintains online databases that connect employers with job seekers.  JobLink is used by the state governments of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Oklahoma and Vermont. In March I informed you that the database for all of the states using JobLink were hacked sometime prior to March 16th.  The total number of people affected was undetermined, but potentially huge.  In Delaware alone personal information from more than 200,000 accounts was stolen. Included in the information stolen in this data breach were names, Social Security numbers and birth dates which could be readily used for purposes of identity theft.

A few days ago Vermont officials indicated that none of the 180,000 people in Vermont affected by the data breach have yet reported identity theft problems.  While this is a good sign, it does not mean that the compromised information could not still turn up in the hands of an identity thief possibly purchasing this information on the Dark Web and use it for purposes of identity theft, but it definitely is good news.

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If you used JobLink in any of the affected states, you should freeze your credit with each of the three credit reporting agencies to help prevent anyone who may have access to your Social Security number from obtaining credit in your name.  You can find out how to put a credit freeze on your credit report by putting in the key words “credit freeze” in the Search the Website section of Scamicide at the right hand corner of this page.

You should also carefully monitor all of your credit cards and other accounts regularly for any indications of identity theft.

Scam of the day – July 3, 2017 – Delta Airlines Facebook scam

For years I have been reporting to you about numerous scams involving airline tickets.  Delta Airlines is  now reporting a scam where the targeting victim of the scam receives a a Facebook request purporting to be from Delta asking for SkyMiles numbers and other personal information.  This information is used by the scammer for purposes of identity theft.

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Neither Delta nor any of the other airlines will contact you through Facebook and ask for personal information or account information.  Delta and the other airlines will only ask for your account information if you go to their secure website or if you contact them in order to verify your identity.

Scam of the day – July 2, 2017 – Anthem data breach class action settlement

I first reported to you about the huge data breach at Anthem, a major care health care company in February of 2015 when it was initially discovered. The data breach affected 78.8 million patients and employees.  The data stolen included birth dates, Social Security numbers and other information putting the victims in extreme danger of identity theft.    In response to the data breach Anthem offered free identity theft repair and credit monitoring services to current or former members of Anthem plans going back to 2004.

A class action filed by people affected by the data breach has recently been settled with the settlement now awaiting approval by a federal judge in California overseeing the case.

Here is a link to the settlement.

https://anthemdatabreachlitigation.girardgibbs.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2017-0623-Dkt-869-8-Settlement-Agreement.pdf

Approval is expected shortly.  Under the terms of the settlement, Anthem will offer two more years of identity theft repair and credit monitoring services to those affected and will pay up to fifteen million dollars toward out of pocket costs incurred by victims of the data breach.  Anthem also agreed to make substantial changes to its cybersecurity systems.  The total amount to be paid to settle the class action is 115 million dollars which is more than five times what Target and Home Depot spent to settle similar charges.  The primary reason for this is that in the Target and Home Depot data breaches all that was lost was credit card information while in the Anthem breach, personal information that can lead to significant identity theft was stolen.  Hopefully, this will serve as a wake up call to companies to upgrade their cybersecurity.  It is important to also note that, as with so many data breaches, this was started when an employee clicked on a link in a simple phishing email.

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I will notify you when the settlement is approved and let you know how to make a claim and apply for the additional credit monitoring and identity theft protection as well as apply for out of pocket expense reimbursement.

Neither Anthem nor AllClear ID, the company Anthem is using to provide credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to victims of the data breach assists with credit freezes although it would be advisable to put a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Transunion and Experian if you were a victim of this or any other data breach.  You can find out how to put a credit freeze on your credit report by putting in the key words “credit freeze” in the Search the Website section of Scamicide at the top right hand corner of this page.