Scam of the day – June 4, 2017 – New Medicare card scam

Medicare has used a person’s Social Security number as his or her Medicare number since the inception of Medicare and despite the rest of the country recognizing that this puts Medicare recipients in serious danger of identity theft, Medicare resisted changing the Medicare number to a safer random number for many years.  In the Scam of the day for April 23, 2015 I first reported to you about a new law requiring Medicare to start using randomly generated numbers for Medicare identification.  The effective date for that law, however was pushed into the future.   Now we are approaching the effective date of the law and scammers are springing up to take advantage of confusion about the switch to new Medicare numbers to make people victims of identity theft.

Starting in 2018, new cards will be sent by regular mail to all 60 million Americans enrolled in Medicare.  Between April 2018 and December 31, 2019 a Medicare recipient can use either his or her old number or the new, more secure Medicare number.  Starting in 2020 only the new numbers will be used.

Scammers are already taking confusion about this transition to the new Medicare numbers by pretending to be Medicare employees, calling Medicare recipients and telling them that they need to register on the phone to get their new card or they will lose benefits.  They then ask for their intended victim’s Medicare number which is the same as their Social Security number and use that information to make them a victim of identity theft.  In another variation of the scam, targeted victims are told they need to pay for the new card through a credit card or by giving the caller their bank account number.  The truth is that there is no charge for the new card, but anyone providing this information to a scammer will quickly become a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

If you are a Medicare recipient, you will get your new card in the mail. There is nothing you need to do and nothing you need to pay to get your new card with your new number in the mail.  As for phone calls purporting to be from Medicare, you should never provide your Social Security number, credit card number or any other personal information to anyone who calls you on the phone because you can never be sure they are legitimate.  Even if your Caller ID indicates the call is from Medicare, the IRS or some other legitimate organization, through a technique called “spoofing” your Caller ID can be tricked into making it appear that the call is legitimate.  If you get a call asking for personal information that appears legitimate, merely hang up and call the company or agency at a number that you independently know is legitimate to find out the truth.

Scam of the day – February 16, 2016 – Bank vishing scam

Vinton County National Bank in Ohio is warning its customers of a vishing scam presently being done in Ohio although everyone, regardless of where you live should be aware that this type of scam is also turning up throughout the country.  Vishing is a combination of the word “voice” and the word “phishing” and it refers to phishing scams done over the phone.  In this particular instance, people are receiving telephone calls purportedly from their bank telling them that there has been a security problem with their debit card and their account has been frozen.  They are then directed to a phony security department that persuades the intended victim to provide personal information about their bank account in an effort to resolve the problem.  Unfortunately, if the person called falls for the scam and provides personal information, he or she ends up becoming a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Although in the case of the Ohio vishing calls, Caller ID indicates that the calls have not originated with the bank, more sophisticated scammers are able to trick Caller ID into indicating that the call indeed is coming from your bank through a technique called “spoofing” so you cannot trust your Caller ID to screen legitimate calls from those scammers.  No bank will ever ask for your personal information by phone, email or text message so the easy way to avoid becoming a victim of vishing is to just refrain from ever giving personal information to someone who contacts you by phone, email or text message requesting personal information.  If you think that the communication might be legitimate, merely hang up and contact the bank at a telephone number you know is accurate.

Scam of the day – August 10, 2014 – Comcast billing scam

Comcast is one of the biggest providers of cable and Internet services in the country and their billing can be far from simple which makes them a tempting target for scammers.  The latest Comcast related scam starts with a telephone call to the potential victim from a scammer who represents that he or she is a Comcast employee calling to inform you of a new promotion where if you make an initial $600 payment, you will not be billed for six months and after that you bill will only be $99 per month.  Because Comcast often does offer tempting promotions the offer doesn’t seem unrealistic.  In addition, the scammer calling generally has information about the victim’s Comcast account such as how long they have been a Comcast customer and the amount of their current bill that makes the call seem even more legitimate.  However, then comes the catch.  In order to take advantage of this offer, the victim is told that he or she must use a Green Dot Money-Pak cash card.  Of course, once the victim send the money via the cash card, the money is lost forever and to make things worse, when the victim stops paying his or her regular Comcast bill, there services may be terminated.

TIPS

You can never trust anyone calling you on the phone to be who they say they are.  Even if the Caller ID appears to say it is someone legitimate, such as Comcast, scammers can alter Caller ID through a process called spoofing so it appears that the call is from a legitimate source even though in truth it is not.  You should always be wary whenever anyone asks for payment by way of a cash card such as the Green Dot Money-Pak or by wiring funds, such as through Western Union because once those funds have been sent in those ways, they are impossible to get back.  If you ever get contacted on the phone with an offer that you think might be legitimate, you should hang up and contact the company at a number that you know is legitimate to find out the truth.

In response to this particular scam, Comcast issued the following statement: “We are aware of the Greendot Moneypak scam in which victims receive an email or call offering them a promotional package for Comcast services.  The call or email advises the victim to pay an upfront fee using a Greendot Moneypak.  While Comcast accepts Greendot as one form of payment, under no circumstances would it be required in advance for services.  We encourage customers to confirm promotional emails or call that appear to be from Comcast by verifying the offer information on the company’s official website www.comcast.com or by calling 1-800-COMCAST (266-2278).”

Scam of the day – April 19, 2014 – Electricity termination notice scam

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane recently warned consumers about a scam involving people receiving phone calls purportedly from their electric utility company threatening the consumer with having their electrical service terminated for non-payment.  The consumer is then told that the only way they can avoid having their electricity turned off is to send payment by way of a Green Dot Card.  Green Dot Cards are prepaid debit cards that can be obtained in many places.  Scammers use them frequently because unlike a check, payment cannot be stopped on a Green Dot Card and they are extremely difficult to trace.  They are very much the equivalent to having money wired which is another favorite method that scammers like to use for their payments.  Although this particular scam warning came from the Pennsylvania Attorney General, this scam is being done throughout the country.

TIPS

Whenever you get a telephone call, you can never be sure who is actually calling you.  Even your Caller ID can be fooled by clever scammers who can make it appear that the call is from a legitimate source.  State regulations require you to receive written notice before a utility can be turned off and you will also receive information as to how to make arrangements for payments.  If you do receive a call from any company that you do business with demanding payment, your best course of action is to hang up and call the business back at a number that you know is accurate to make arrangements for the payment of your bill.

Scam of the day – March 31, 2014 – Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) scams

Today is the deadline for the applying for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) under the initial open enrollment period.  People required to enroll who have not started the process by today face being assessed with a financial penalty.   This is a great opportunity for uninsured people to purchase health insurance.  It is also a great opportunity for identity thieves and scam artists to take advantage of the confusion that surrounds the Affordable Care Act and try to steal your money and your personal information which they can use to make you a victim of identity theft.  There are a number of phony Affordable Care Act websites and people are also receiving calls from identity thieves and scammers posing as legitimate insurance brokers where the goal is merely to obtain your personal information and make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Never give personal information to anyone over the phone who calls you regardless of who they say they are because you can never be sure of their true identity.  Even if your Caller ID indicates that they are legitimate, scammers and identity thieves are able to manipulate Caller ID through a technique called spoofing whereby they are able to make their call appear to be from a legitimate source.  As for websites dealing with the Affordable Care Act, the problems initially occurring with the functioning of the website have been eliminated.  The best source of information both as to how to learn about the Affordable Care Act and to sign up for a plan is https://www.healthcare.gov/

 

Scam of the day – March 6, 2014 – Verizon Wireless scam

“Spoofing” is the name for the tactic used by identity thieves to make a call that you receive appear to come from a legitimate source, when, in truth it is from a scammer who has merely managed to make it look like the call is legitimate.  Many people are reporting receiving calls on their smart phones or landlines that on Caller ID appear to be from “Technical Support” and carrying a telephone number that is a real number for Verizon Wireless technical support.  The call received is an automated robocall that informs you that you have are eligible for a $54 reward and then directs you to the website www.verizon.54.com.  This website is a phony website which lures you into providing personal information that is then used to make you a victim of identity theft.  In other variations of this scam, merely by clicking on a link on the phony website, you will unwittingly download keystroke logging malware that will steal the personal information from your computer and use this information to make you a victim of identity theft.   This type of scam by which a legitimate-looking, phony website tricks you into providing personal information or clicking on tainted links is called “phishing.”

TIPS

You can never trust a phone call to actually be from whom the caller says.  Spoofing is easy to accomplish by identity thieves.  Don’t be tricked into trusting a telephone call.  In addition, robocalls are illegal so you should never trust a prerecorded call.  Nor should you click on links that you are not sure are legitimate.  If you have any thought that the original contact might be legitimate, contact the company directly at a website address or telephone number that you know is accurate to inquire about the particular matter.

Scam of the day – July 22, 2013 – Utility scam

With summertime electricity use extremely high due to the extreme heat being felt in most of the country, scammers have revived a scam that we saw last winter whereby scammers call people on the phone purporting to be a representative of the local electric company.  They then proceed to tell the unwary receiver of the call that unless they immediately make a payment through a prepaid card, such as Green Dot, there electricity will be shut off.  Many electric company customers have fallen for this scam.  Often the scammers will even be able to “spoof” or copy the phone company’s name and telephone number so that if you have caller ID, the call will appear to come from the electric company when in fact, it is not.

TIP
Your real electric company will never demand an immediate payment through a prepaid card if you are behind in your electric bill.  If you actually are behind in your electric bill, you should contact the electric company yourself to work out a payoff program.  In other variations of this scam, the scammer will ask for your credit card number over the phone to take your payment in that manner.  Never provide any personal information such as your credit card number or Social Security number to anyone on the phone whom you have not called.  You can never be sure that the person calling you is whom they purport to be.