Scam of the day – August 8, 2017 – Dish Network phone scam

The Dish Network is a popular satellite television and Internet provider used by millions of people, which is why it is a good hook for scammers who are calling people purporting to be Dish Network technicians and telling their intended victims that their equipment is being updated and that a technician would be coming out in a few days to complete the upgrade at a cost of $200, a charge that must be paid immediately.  In many instances the calls appear on Caller ID to have originated at the Dish Network, but that is not true.  The Caller ID has been manipulated by the scammer to make it appear that the call is legitimate.  In many instances, the scammers actually have had the customer’s account number or even the last four digits of the customer’s credit card.

TIPS

You can never be sure who is really calling you on the phone which is why you should always be skeptical if someone demands money or personal information under any circumstances.  In this case, the Dish Network does not call its customers if it is upgrading their services and they do not charge for upgrades.  Any notices from the Dish Network would come by regular mail or email.  If you receive a call that you think may be from the Dish Network, you should hang up and call the Dish Network at a telephone number that you get from your bill.

Scam of the day – August 7, 2017 – Another twist on the Nigerian letter scam

Although it may seem as if the Nigerian letter scam only began in earnest with the invention of email, in fact, the Nigerian email scam of today is just a variation of a scam that is more than four hundred years old when it was called “the Spanish Prisoner con.”  At that time, a letter was sent to the targeted victim purportedly from someone on behalf of a wealthy aristocrat who was imprisoned in Spain under a false name.  The identity of the nobleman was not revealed for security reasons, but the victim was asked to help raise money to obtain the release of the aristocrat, who, it was promised, would reward the money-contributing victim with great sums of money and, in some versions of the con, the Spanish prisoner’s beautiful daughter in marriage.

In  the present day incarnations of this scam, you receive an email in which you are promised great sums of money under various guises such as assisting a Nigerian in his effort to transfer money out of his country.  Other variations include the movement of embezzled funds by corrupt officials, a dying gentleman who wants to make charitable gifts or a minor bank official who is trying to move the money of deceased foreigners out of his bank without the government taking it.  The email which I received recently and is copied below deals with undisclosed reasons for transferring money outside of the country.

What all of these scams have in common is that as soon as you contact the scammer, they start asking you to provide money for a variety of purposes and regardless of how much money you pay, you never receive anything.

Here is a copy of the email I recently received:

“Dear Good FriendI am Mr. Abdoul Issouf ,I work for BOA Bank Ouagadougou Burkina Faso,
I have a business proposal which concerns the transfer of ($13.5
Million US Dollars) into a foreign account. Everything about this
transaction shall be legally done without any problem. If you are
interested to help me, I will give you more details as soon as I
receive your positive response. You will be entitled to 40%, and 60%
will be for me,. If you are willing to Work with me, send me your
reply Immediately with your Age and your Nationality and your Name
and your Occupation and your Private Telephone Numbers?Thanks
Mr. Abdoul Issouf
BOA (D.R.T) Bank Of Africa”

TIPS

Although it should be apparent to everyone who reads this email that it is a scam, the very outrageousness of  the email is most likely intentional because as more people become aware of the Nigerian letter scam, the scammers do not want to waste their time on potential victims who may be skeptical of their scam, so they often send out emails like these that are so ridiculous in an effort to catch only the most gullible and greedy.  Also note that the salutation does not even indicate to whom the email is being sent.  Instead, the lazy scammer merely addresses it as “Dear Good Friend” Never  reply to emails such as this.    If you receive a particularly inventive or interesting Nigerian email, please share it with us here at Scamicide.

 

Scam of the day – August 6, 2017 – Hero hacker who stopped Wannacry arrested on malware charges

Say it ain’t so!  It was just a few weeks ago that Marcus Hutchins, a cybersecurity researcher for Kryptos Logic was being hailed as a hero for his discovery of the kill-switch used to stop the spread of the dangerous WannaCry ransomware malware attack that infected millions of computers around the world.  Now, however, Hutchins has been arrested by the FBI on federal charges related to the creation and distribution of the Kronos banking malware that when surreptitiously installed on victims’ computers allowed the cybercriminals to steal login information and data that enabled the cybercriminals to hack into their victims’ bank accounts.

Federal authorities allege that Hutchins created the software and then, in keeping with the present business plan used by many cybercriminals sold the malware for thousands of dollars to other criminals on websites on the Dark Web, where criminals buy and sell criminal information and products.

TIPS

It should not be overlooked that Hutchins has only been charged with these crimes and has a presumption of innocence.  A lesson for all of us is to remember that malware such as both the Wannacry ransomware and the Kronos banking malware are generally downloaded on to the computers, smart phones and other electronic devices of their victims when the victims click on links in infected emails or text messages.  Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  Never click on any links unless in you have absolutely confirmed that they are legitimate.

Scam of the day – August 5, 2017 – FBI issues warning about internet connected toys

Recently the FBI issued a warning to consumers about the privacy and identity theft dangers posed by internet connected toys.   The toys, often come equipped with sensors, microphones, cameras, data storage components, speech recognition and GPS.  They are incredibly sophisticated and can tailor the toy’s response to the child’s behaviors and words. The dangers arise from the lack of security of some of these toys in the manner they gather and store information.

Cayla, a new doll from Genesis Toys seems like such a nice girl, but according to the Bundesnetagentur, the German telecommunications regulatory agency, she is a spy and is now banned from Germany.   Cayla is a part of the ever expanding Internet of Things and according to the Bundesnetagentur, Cayla has hidden cameras and microphones that could be used to record private conversations over an insecure Bluetooth connection.

Cayla is not the first doll to be so equipped, In the Fall of 2015, the latest incarnation of Barbie, the “Hello Barbie” was introduced.  Hello Barbie also has hidden microphones and speakers, but  instead of Bluetooth technology, uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) which is an encryption protocol to protect the privacy and security of communications

TIPS

Many of the devices that make up the Internet of Things come with preset passwords that can easily be discovered by hackers.  Change your password as soon as you set up the product.  Also, set up a guest network on your router exclusively for your Internet of Things devices.  Use encryption software for the transmission of data and research where data is stored and what steps are taken to secure the information.  Also, limit the amount of information you provide when setting up the accounts for the toys.  The less information out there, the less the risk of identity theft.

Scam of the day – August 4, 2017 – Debit card fraud increasing

According to statistics of FICO, the company that created the credit scoring system used by banks and others to measure credit worthiness, debit card fraud increased by 26% between 2015 and 2016 and my belief is that the problem is going to get worse before it gets better.   A large part of the problem has been the failure of many companies to switch over to the more secure EMV chip credit and debit cards as required by industry guidelines that do not carry the weight of law.  While the date for retailers to switch to EMV chip credit and debit cards has long passed and the deadline for ATMs using MasterCard debit cards was last October, the date for gas pumps to implement EMV chip credit and debt card technology has been extended until 2020.  This gives identity thieves plenty of opportunities to install cheap and easy to obtain skimmers on ATMs, gas pumps and the card processing equipment of non-complying retailers to steal credit and debit card numbers to be used for fraudulent purposes.

However, the problem is much worse with debit cards.  The holder of a credit card used for fraudulent purposes cannot be assessed more than $50 for such use and most credit card companies charge nothing. However, the potential liability of a person whose debit card has been compromised can reach his or her entire bank account tied to the card if the card owner does not report the crime promptly and even if the card owner does report the theft promptly, the debit card owner’s access to his or her own bank account is frozen while the bank investigates the crime.

TIPS

Consumers should refrain from using their debit cards for anything other than an ATM card. Use a credit card for all of your card purchases to achieve greater consumer protection.  In addition, you should regularly monitor the bank account tied to your debit card in order to discover as soon as possible if fraudulent use of your debit card has occurred so that you can report it to the bank and limit your liability.

Scam of the day – August 3, 2017 – Deputy sheriff sentenced to five years for identity theft

Despite your best efforts to keep your personal information safe and secure, you are always at the mercy of rogue employees of companies or governmental agencies that have access to your personal information.

Government officials, particularly those in law enforcement have tremendous access to data banks containing large amounts of personal information that, in the wrong hands, can lead to identity theft which is just what happened when Palm Beach County Florida Deputy Sheriff Frantz Felisma was convicted of identity theft.  Felisma was contacted by a criminal looking for personal information about people driving expensive automobiles in order to use that information to make them victims of identity theft.  Felisma’s accomplice provided him with the license plate numbers of cars owned by wealthy people and Felisma  used his access to restricted data bases to provide his accomplice with the Social Security numbers and other personal information of the targeted victims.

Now Felisma has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $175,000 in restitution.

TIPS

There is little that you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of this type of identity theft other than to limit as much as possible the companies and institutions to which you provide personal information such as your Social Security number, which is a key piece of information for accomplishing identity theft.  Many companies and others with which you do business may request this information although they have no real need for this information.  For example, your doctor does not need your Social Security number although many physicians ask for it.  When asked, you should politely offer another form of identification.  Although I certainly wouldn’t advise it, for years I heard that people who did not want to provide their Social Security number to various institutions would give Richard Nixon’s Social Security number.  Out of curiosity I looked up Richard Nixon’s Social Security number through the Federal Death Master Index and found that the number that was floating around on the Internet 567-68-0515 was indeed Nixon’s Social Security number.

Scam of the day – August 2, 2017 – Romance scam update

I have written many times in Scamicide.com and in my book “The Truth About Avoiding Scams” about romance scams.  Most of these online dating and romance scams involve some variation of the person you meet though an online dating site quickly falling in love with you and then, under a wide variety of pretenses, asking for money.   According to recent FBI statistics, this scam is getting worse with twice as many people becoming victims of romance scams in 2016 compared to 2014 at a cost of almost 220 million dollars.  In addition, it is highly likely that the number of actual victims of this type of scam is understated because many victims fail to report that they have been swindled due to embarrassment.

TIPS

There are various red flags to help you identify romance scams.  I describe many of them in detail in my book “The Truth About Avoiding Scams.” The most important thing to remember is to always be skeptical of anyone who falls in love with you quickly online without ever meeting you and early into the relationship needs you to wire money to assist them with a wide range of phony emergencies.

Here are a few other things to look for to help identify a romance scam.  Often their profile picture is stolen from a modeling website on the Internet.  If the picture looks too professional and the person looks too much like a model, you should be wary.  Particular phrases, such as “Remember the distance or color does not matter, but love matters a lot in life” is a phrase that turns up in many romance scam emails.  Also be on the lookout for bad spelling and grammar as many of the romance scammers claim to be Americans, but are actually foreigners lying about where they are and who they are.  Of course you should be particularly concerned if someone falls in love with you almost immediately.  Often they will ask you to use a webcam, but will not use one themselves.  This is another red flag.  One thing you may want to do is ask them to take a picture of themselves holding up a sign with their name on it.  In addition, ask for a number of pictures because generally when the scammers are stealing pictures of models from websites, they do not have many photographs. Ask for the picture to be at a particular place that you designate to further test them.

Scam of the day – August 1, 2017 – Discover card now offering identity theft alert services

Discover is now offering free identity theft alert services through any of their credit cards.  Discover monitors websites on the Dark Web where criminals buy and sell stolen credit cards, Social Security numbers and other identity theft information.  They will then alert their customers if it is found that their Social Security number or credit card has been compromised.  In addition, Discover will also monitor the customer’s Experian credit report and alert the customer if new accounts, such as credit cards, car loans or mortgages are taken out in the name of the customer.  Finally, Discover representatives will offer some guidance in remedying the problem if the customer does become a victim of identity theft.  All of these services are offered by Discover to its customers at no charge.

TIPS

While this is a very significant benefit to consumers and Discover should be applauded for its efforts, it should be noted that there are numerous other ways that identity theft is accomplished beyond those that Discover will be monitoring.  In addition, Discover will only be looking at the customer’s Experian credit report and not those of the other credit reporting agencies, TransUnion and Equifax.  Often problems may appear on one of these companies reports and not on the others.  Perhaps most importantly, like all credit monitoring services, these services do nothing to help prevent someone from becoming a victim of identity theft in the first place.  There are many things that people can do to help protect themselves from becoming a victim of identity theft, perhaps most strongly by putting a credit freeze on their credit reports at all three of the credit reporting agencies.  In my book “Identity Theft Alert” I list more than sixty simple things people can do to protect themselves from becoming a victim of identity theft.

Scam of the day – July 31, 2017 – Social Security phone scam

The phony phone call from a scammer posing as an IRS agent threatening severe penalties if the person receiving the call has proven to be a very successful scam for the criminals making those calls so it is not surprising that scammers are branching out and now are making calls to unwary seniors purporting to be representatives of the Social Security Administration.  There are a number of variations of this scam, but perhaps the most common is where the person receiving the call is told that in order to receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), they must confirm personal information including their name, birth date and Social Security number.   The truth is that this information is not required for a person to receive a cost-of-living adjustment which is automatic and if the person does provide this personal information, the scammer will use it to make the person a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

You do not have to confirm information or apply for any cost-of-living adjustment.  It is automatically added to a Social Security recipient’s payment.  In addition, you should never give out personal information on the phone to someone you have not called unless you are absolutely sure that the call is legitimate and there is a legitimate need for that information.  Scammers can trick your Caller ID through a technique called spoofing into making it appear that the call is from the Social Security Administration or any other entity they wish.

Scam of the day – July 30. 2017 – AOL phishing scam

Millions of people still use AOL.  One reason is that you get greater email privacy when compared to some other email carriers. Due to its popularity, scammers and identity thieves often send out phishing emails that appear to come from AOL, such as the one reproduced below.  The logo and format of this particular email that is presently circulating is quite poor.  Compare it to the excellent counterfeit phishing email I included in the Scam of the Day for May 31, 2014.  This one comes from an email address that has no relation to the company, AOL.  Further, it is not directed to the recipient specifically by name.  Like many similar scams, this one works by luring you into clicking on a link in the email in order to resolve a problem.  However, if you click on the link, one of two things will happen.  You either will be prompted to provide information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft or by clicking on the link you will unwittingly download a keystroke logging malware program that will steal all of the information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.   Here is how the email appears.  DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK:
“Dear Aol User
You can not send or receive new messages until you re-validate your mailbox.
To renew the mailbox,
Click below: Login&Complete
Thank you!
Webmail Administrator.”
TIPS
When AOL communicates with its customers about their accounts, they do so by AOL Certified Mail, which will appear as a blue envelope in your inbox and will have an official AOL Mail seal on the border of the email.  This particular email had neither and only had an easy to counterfeit AOL logo appear on the email.  Whenever you get an email, you cannot be sure of from whom it really comes.  Never click on a link unless you are absolutely sure that it is legitimate.  If you think the email might be legitimate, The best thing to do is to contact the real company that the email purports to be from at an address or phone number that you know is accurate in order to find out if the communication was legitimate or not. Remember, never click on links in emails unless you have confirmed that they are legitimate.