Scam of the day – September 11, 2015 – University of Colorado warns students about sextortion

Back in the March 31st Scam of the day I warned you about the dangers of sextortion.  Sex extortion or sextortion has been around for years on the Internet with criminals tricking people into performing sexual acts online that are recorded and then used to blackmail the victims.  Now the University of Colorado Boulder Police Department is warning students about overseas criminals luring students into performing sexually acts on Skype that the criminal records and then threatens to make the videos public unless a ransom is paid.  In this latest incarnation of the scam, the criminal initially friends the victim on Facebook and gains the trust of the victim before luring him or her into compromising videos.  Investigators in Colorado have traced the particular criminal involved with their campus to someone based in Singapore.

In a twist on this scam found in the actions of other cyberextortionists, the cybercriminals  pretend that they are having audio difficulties and convince their victims into downloading a specific Android app on to their Android smartphone which they represent will remedy the problem.  However, instead of fixing the problem, the app is malware that steals all of the contact information stored on the victim’s smartphone.  The cybercriminal then threatens to send the videos to everyone on the victim’s contact list unless the victim pays a ransom.

TIPS

The best solution to any problem is to avoid the problem altogether.  If you are going to indulge in cybersex or phone sex, it should only be done with people whom you totally trust.  Engaging in such activities with strangers or people you do not know well is asking for trouble.  Also, make sure that all of your electronic devices including your smartphone and computer are protected with the latest updated security software.  Even then, however, no security software is 100% effective against the latest viruses and malware so you should never click on links or download attachments unless you have absolutely confirmed that they are legitimate and you should never download apps from anywhere other than legitimate app stores.  The risk of malware is just too high.

Scam of the day – January 9, 2015 – Post holiday delivery scam

Although the holiday shopping season is essentially over, there are still many people who may have ordered gifts at the last minute that are just starting to arrive and scammers are taking advantage of this situation.  Reports are surfacing of people receiving communications purporting to be from national retailers either by email or social media messages in which the people receiving the messages are told that their delivery is ready for pickup or delivery.  The messages and emails often look quite legitimate and carry the logo of the particular retailer from whom the message appears to be sent.  As is an essential part of this type of scam, the email or social media message contains a link which you are advised to click on for more delivery information and that is where the problem starts.  Clicking on the link either will take you to a website that asks for personal information used to make you a victim of identity theft or, even worse, merely by clicking on the link, you will have unwittingly downloaded keystroke logging malware that will steal all of the information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Just as the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by telephone so that if you get a call purporting to be from the IRS you know it is a scam, so do retailers not communicate about deliveries with customers by way of Facebook and other social media.  It certainly is important to keep track of all of your legitimate orders from retailers so if you get such an email message, you can ignore it, knowing you do not have a delivery, but even if you have any question that it may be a legitimate message, you still shouldn’t click on any link without confirming that it is legitimate and the best way to do that is to call or go to the website of the company directly at a telephone number or website address that you know is correct.  Don’t use the phone number or website address provided in the email. Remember, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”

Scam of the day – January 2, 2015 – AirAsia Facebook scam

Although legitimate media is reporting pieces of the wreckage as well as bodies from missing AirAsia Flight 8501 have been found, many people are falling for a Facebook scam where a link appears on their Facebook pages that promises to provide information and video from CNN indicating that the AirAsia plane had been found intact in the Philippines.  The piece appearing on Facebook pages looks like a legitimate CNN story and carries the logo of CNN, however, the AirAsia plane shown is not the missing plane, but rather a photograph of another AirAsia flight that skidded off of the runway in Malaysia in 2011.  Clicking on the video will not bring up the video.  Instead you are redirected to a phony CNN website that informs you that you need to “like” and “share” the video before you can view it.  Once you have done both of these actions, you are redirected again to another website that requires you to take a survey before you can view the video.  You are told that by taking the survey, you are eligible to win valuable prizes.  Among the information requested in the survey is your cell phone number and other personal information.  Once you take the survey, you are hooked because unwittingly what you are actually doing is signing up for “cramming” charges on your cell phone for various text message services.  If you are unfamiliar with “cramming,” check out the archives of Scamicide and put in the word “cramming.”

TIPS

Curiosity killed the cat and it can also add additional unwanted costs to your cell phone bill.  Scammers constantly take advantage of our curiosity about current news events to lure people into clicking on links that can result in your signing up for services you don’t want or need or even result in your downloading keystroke logging malware that can result in your information being stolen and you becoming a victim of identity theft.

A red flag in this particular scam is the requirement that you “like” and “share” the video before you have even seen it.  This is something you should never do.  In addition, you can never be sure that an apparent legitimate media link on your Facebook page is indeed legitimate or not so you should never click on such links for your news.  Instead, go directly to the websites of legitimate news outlets that you trust.

Scam of the day – November 9, 2014 – Teenager scams $130,000 from investors

Nineteen year old David Topping was arrested in North Carolina and charged with selling investors $130,000 of fraudulent investments.  Topping contacted his twenty victims through cold calls and social media including Facebook and LinkedIn.  He enticed his victims with promises of monthly returns of 6.24% for the investments in his company, Stark Innovations LLC which he said dealt with international trade.  He further represented to his victims that the investments were totally without risk. Finally he also represented to his victims that the company was socially responsible, giving 5% of its annual profits to local charities.  Of course the entire investment was a scam.  To make things first, Topping was not licensed to sell securities, a fact that would have been apparent to anyone who did their due diligence research and had looked him up with the Securities Division of the North Carolina Secretary of State.

TIPS

No one should ever invest in anything until they have done a due diligence investigation into both the person selling you the investment and the investment itself.  No one should ever invest in anything unless you truly understand the investment.  Legendary Warren Buffet resisted investing in high technology companies until he felt comfortable that he understood the companies  and what they did.  Many intelligent people invested with Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff without understanding how his investments worked.  If they had investigated his strategy, it would have been apparent that it was a sham.  Why should you trust an investment being sold to you through a cold call or on social media that makes outrageous promises that are too good to be true?  Do your homework and protect your money.

Scam of the day – October 11, 2014 – Nude photos of Emily Watson scam

Emma Watson is a popular, young actress who is best known for her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter movies.  She is one of the most well searched celebrities on the Internet.  This intelligent Brown University graduate also may be one of the few celebrities who did not have nude photos of her stolen from the cloud.  It may even because she has not taken such pictures.  Regardless, there are many people who would very much like to see nude photographs of her which is why a new scam first reported by the security firm Bitdefender comes as no surprise.  This scam starts with a Facebook posting that promises nude videos of Emma Watson for free, merely by clicking on a link.  If you click on the link the image reproduced below appears on your screen.  Unfortunately, if you download the attachment in order to view the promised video, you will not succeed in seeing a video of Emma Watson, but you will succeed in downloading malware called Trojan.Agent.BFQZ which will steal the information from your computer or other electronic device and use it to make you a victim of identity theft, make postings using your name on Facebook and sign you up for expensive text message services for which you will be billed through your cellular service.

The Emma Watson Trojan virus being shared on Facebook

TIPS

Without even getting into the morality and ethics of viewing what appear to be privacy invading, stolen nude videos of public figures, the plain, hard truth is that many of these solicitations to view these videos are just bait by scammers and identity thieves to lure you into clicking on links and downloading attachments that will install malware on your computer or other electronic device that will end up costing you money and making you a victim of identity theft.  Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  Never click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate.

 

Scam of the day – September 24, 2014 – Money flipping scam

An old scam with a new twist is appearing lately on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Craigslist and Instagram where an advertisement promises you that through a simple money flipping scheme that takes advantage of quirks in the monetary system, your investment of, for example $100 can quickly be turned into $1,000 by “flipping” and leveraging the money.  In case you need further convincing, the ads often have photographs of happy investors and testimonials about how easy it is.  This is the same type of ploy used by Charles Ponzi, the Godfather of today’s scammers including the infamous Bernie Madoff.  How the scheme works is that all you have to do is to purchase a prepaid debit card and put, for example $100 on the card.  You then provide your card number and PIN from the card to the scammer who promptly steals your money and is never heard from again.  Money lost through prepaid debit cards is impossible to recover which is why they are a payment method of choice of scam artists.

TIPS

Of course, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is and this money flipping scam is no exception to this rule.  Another important rule in investing is to never invest in anything that you do not totally understand.  Anyone researching this scam would soon learn that it is nothing more than an impossible investment scam.  Finally, always be skeptical if anyone wants you to pay with a prepaid debit card.  Sometimes the arrangement may indeed be legitimate, but it should always put you on guard.

Scam of the day – September 19, 2014 – Free iPhone scam

The lines were long yesterday before the Apple stores even opened for the first day of sales of the new iPhone 6.  It does appear that the iPhone 6 does have a lot of new and exciting features.  As always, however, whenever the public is excited or enthusiastic about something, so are the scam artists who are ready to exploit the public’s fascination.  A scam is appearing on Facebook where you are asked to “like” a promotion found on your Facebook page where merely by completing a survey and sharing a link with your friends, you will receive a free iPhone 6.  Of course, you are not going to get a free iPhone 6 in exchange for merely completing a survey and sharing a link with your friends.  What you are going to get, when you complete this particular survey, which requires you to provide your cell phone number, is a cramming charge on your cell phone bill for a text messaging service for which you have unwittingly signed up.  As for your friends, if they click on the link that you have enabled them to receive, they will end up defrauded as well.

TIPS

The old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t true” still stands.  No one is giving away free iPhones to everyone who merely completes a survey.  Legitimate companies do ask their customers to complete surveys and sometimes they will even provide an inducement for completing the survey, but generally, your reward is to be enrolled in a lottery for a particular prize.  Everyone who completes the survey does not get a valuable prize.  On the other hand, scammers are constantly sending out surveys that either, within the fine print, sign you up for an expensive services that is often added to your phone bill through a scam called “cramming” or they take the personal information you provide and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.  As difficult as it sometimes may be, everyone should carefully examine their phone bill each month to make sure that no fraudulent cramming charges are included on the bill.  If you find one or more, you should contact your phone service provider and instruct them to have the charges removed.  Also, be wary of providing personal information to anyone even if they seem legitimate.  Think about whether that information that you are asked to provide could be used against your best interests.

Scam of the day – August 13, 2014 – Robin Williams death scams

You can always count on scammers and identity thieves to capitalize on every tragic event that captures the public’s imagination.  Celebrity deaths seem to be of particular interest to many people.  Following the deaths of celebrities in recent years such as Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Paul Walker, scammers and identity thieves set up scams and identity theft schemes to take advantage of the curiosity of the public about the deaths of these celebrities.  The sad passing of Robin Williams by suicide is bringing new scams and identity theft schemes.   Some of these scams  start with a post on your Facebook page, which often can appear to come from someone you know, when in fact, it is really from an identity thief who hacked into the Facebook account of a friend of yours.  The post provides a link to be able to view photographs of Robin Williams purported to be police photographs that have not appeared in the news.  Unfortunately, if you fall for this bait by clicking on the link, one of two things can happen, both of which are bad.  In one scam, you are led to a survey that you need to complete before you can view the video. In fact, there is no such video and by providing the survey information, you have enabled the scammer to get paid by advertisers for collecting completed surveys.  However, the problem is worse because by completing the survey, you have turned over valuable information to a scammer who can use that information to target you for phishing and identity theft threats.  Even worse though in another variation of this scam is when click on the link and unwittingly download a keystroke logging malware program that will steal all of the information from your computer including credit card numbers, passwords and bank account information and use that information to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Remember my mantra, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”  Merely because a post on your Facebook page appears to come from someone you trust is no reason to consider it reliable.    The posting could be merely from someone who has hacked your friend’s Facebook account.  Other times, the posting may indeed be from your real friend, however, that real friend may unwittingly be passing on tainted links that they have received.    For news matters, you should only rely on legitimate news sources, such as the websites of the major network news stations such as CNN.  In matters such as rare celebrity footage, you should limit your sources to only those that you know are legitimate and can trust such as www.tmz.com.  If it isn’t on TMZ, then it doesn’t really exist.  It is a scam.  Also, make sure that you keep your anti-malware software up to date with the latest security patches.

Scam of the day – August 12, 2014 – Grandparent scam criminals arrested

Recently Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced that her office had arrested four scammers for running a multistate grandparent scam.  According to Attorney General Kane, these particular scammers had managed to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior citizens in eleven states.  The average age of their victims was 79.  The Federal Trade Commission has estimated that the grandparent scam costs elderly Americans 42 million dollars each year.  There are many variations of the scam.  Generally, it starts with a telephone call from someone pretending to be a grandchild of the person receiving the call.  The scammer then implores the grandparent to send money by a wire transfer to the grandchild immediately to help them out in an emergency encountered in a foreign country where the child is temporarily located.   The emergency may be a health emergency or a legal problem, such as an arrest.   They also ask that the grandparent not tell the grandchild’s parents because of embarrassment.

TIP

If you receive such a call, contact the parents or another source of accurate information as to the grandchild’s whereabouts.  You can even call the grandchild’s cell phone.  Always be wary of any request to wire funds because once money is wired, it is almost impossible to get the money back which is why this is the choice of many scammers.  Grandchildren should be wary of the amount of personal information that they make available on social media such as Facebook because scammers gather such information to make them more believable when the pose as the grandchild.  People should also be more careful as to the information that they put in obituaries as to the names and other information about grandchildren that can be used as a source of information by scam artists about surviving grandparents.