Scam of the day – May 24, 2017 – Small businesses are big targets for scammers

Small to medium sized businesses have been big targets for scammers and cybercriminals for a long time with good reason.  Small to medium sized businesses have much information about their customers and their employees that can be misused for purposes of identity theft and often are not as protected from cyberattacks as they should be.  According to a study by security company Symantec 36% of all targeted cyberattacks have been made against businesses with fewer than 250 employees.  This problem is made worse by the fact that according to the National Cyber Security Alliance 83% of small businesses have no formal cybersecurity plan and 69% have no plan at all.

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Some of the steps I advise are installing Firewalls, installing security software and regularly updating it, training employees about proper security practices, better use of encryption, and using dual factor authentication when available.  I also consult and give speeches to companies and trade groups about how to protect themselves from scams.  If your company or trade group is interested in having me come to speak to you, you can reach me here at Scamicide.

The FTC has also recognized this problem and has now set up a new website that provides helpful information to small businesses about protecting themselves from cyberattacks.  Here is a link to that website.  https://www.ftc.gov/SmallBusiness

Scam of the day – May 20, 2017 – FTC sending refunds to victims of phony Yellow Pages scam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took legal action against CPU Service, Inc and its principal owner, Robert Ray Law shutting down a scam operated by Law and his company by which phony invoices for what appear to be “Yellow Pages” advertising was sent to thousands of small businesses, doctor’s offices, retirement homes and religious schools that had never ordered the ads.  The invoices carried the familiar walking fingers logo of AT&T, but was not affiliated with AT&T in any manner. Many people fell for this scam with many victims sending as much as $487 to the scammers.

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The FTC is now sending out refund checks to victims of the scam.  If you were one of the victims, you can get more information by going to the tab at the top of this page entitled “FTC Scam Refunds” and click on CPU Service Incorporated.

As for the rest of us, whether you are an individual consumer or a business, you should never pay a bill even if it appears legitimate unless you have verified that the bill is indeed owed.  Scammers will often send out bills that appear to be legitimate in the hope that their victims will not notice the difference between the scam invoice and a legitimate invoice.

Scam of the day – February 23, 2017 – FTC settles robocall scam charges regarding Caribbean cruise scam

The Federal Trade Commission and ten states have settled civil charges against Fred Accuardi and a number of his affiliated companies that used illegal robocalls and telemarketing to sell Caribbean cruises under the guise of the victims receiving a free cruise for participating in a survey.

Between October 2011 and July 2012, the defendants made 15 million illegal robocalls  each day in which the person answering the call was told that he or she had been chosen to participate in a thirty second survey in return for which he or she would receive a free two day cruise to the Bahamas.  The truth is that the calls were used to market cruises of Caribbean Cruise Lines, Inc in which the consumers were convinced into paying for more expensive, higher level cruise packages.

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Automated robocalls are a scam that has been with us for many years and despite the best efforts of the Federal Trade Commission, still is victimizing many people.    It is easy to identify a robocall that is a scam.  If you get a robocall, it is a scam.  Commercial robocalls are illegal.  In 2013 I reported to you about  how the FTC, in an effort to combat robocalls held a contest with a $50,000 prize to the person who came up with the best solution to stop robocalls. The winners that year were Aaron Foss and Serdar Danis who split the prize.  Their solution involved software that will filter out calls being placed by a computer or someone identified as an unwanted caller.  When you use the software, if a robocall comes in, it rings once on your phone and then your phone automatically hangs up on the call.  So all you have to do is let the phone ring and if it stops after one ring, it was a robocall.

The software developed by Foss and Danis is now available to anyone for free for your landline and for $4.99 per month for both your landline and mobile phone.  The company providing the service is Nomorobo and you can sign up for the service at   https://www.nomorobo.com/

Long time Scamicide reader Marty Kenney recently reminded me about nomorobo.  He has used it for a long time successfully.

Scam of the day – June 30, 2016 – FTC warns about dangers of victims being scammed twice

Years ago there was a famous movie entitled “The Postman Always Rings Twice.”  However, today it is not your postal carrier contacting you twice, it often is the person that scammed you or someone who got your name from a scammer. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) just issued a warning about this particular scam, sometimes called “reloading,” about which I warned you four years ago.  Scammers often compile lists of their victims with information including their names, addresses and contact information.  They sell this information to other scammers who contact the victims and tell them that they are with a consumer group or government agency and that they are available to help the victim regain the money lost to the previous scam.  The new scammer then asks for processing fees or other personal information, such as a Social Security number in order to proceed with the recovery effort.  Of course, the recovery effort never occurs.  In fact, the victim is merely victimized again, either by paying for services the victim never receives or by giving away personal information that leads to identity theft.

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Government agencies and consumer agencies  do not generally contact you about recovering money you have lost to a scam and they never ask for upfront fees for their services or your Social Security number.  If you want to get help from the FTC or some other agency in regard to being victimized by a scam, it is up to you to contact them.  Only the scammers know you have been scammed so if you are contacted by someone seeking to help you, just say no and never give your personal information to anyone whom you have not contacted unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate and need the information.

Scam of the day – June 16, 2016 – SEC closed down phony charity

Following legal action brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), phony charities American Handicapped, Inc and American Handicapped and Disadvantaged Workers, Inc. have been shut down.  According to the FTC, these companies called consumers in an attempt to sell trash bags and cleaning products at hugely inflated prices while seeking charitable donations in return for a free gift.  The telemarketers would tell their victims that these charities employed disabled people and that most of the money raised would be used to pay the salaries of these disabled people which was a lie.  The two companies sent unordered merchandise including light bulbs and trash bags along with inflated bills for the shipped items to their victims.  The truth is that the companies only paid a fraction of what it collected to its few disabled employees and the free gift that customers received came with an inflated bill.

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Even if you are on the Do Not Call list, legitimate charities may call you soliciting donations, however, whenever you are called by any purported charity or business, you have no way of knowing when they call you whether or not they are legitimate.  Therefore you should never buy items or make a donation to a charity in response to a telemarketing call until you have investigated the charity independently through websites such as charitynavigator.org to determine whether or not the charity is legitimate.  In addition, if a business or a charity sends you any merchandise that you did not order, the law permits you to keep the merchandise as a gift without having to pay for it.

Scam of the day – April 14, 2016 – United Nations compensation board scam

Today’s scam of the day comes, as many do, from my own email although I am sure many of you have seen this as well popping up in your own email.  It appears to be an email from the non-existent United Nations Scam Compensation Board, which promises to compensate scam victims for everything they may have lost.  In addition, these full service scammers also provide loans if you need one.  As counterfeit emails go, this one appears pretty good as it comes under an official United Nations logo.  Somewhat puzzling are places to click at the bottom of the email to like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.  Here is the text of the letter

“Have you been scammed? Are you talking to a scammer? Have you ever lost a property online to fraudsters?  We have created a Board to compensate all your loss 100%.  We Have agents ready to help you file your loss case and get a FULL refund. If your COMPANY have been also scammed whether a small or big business, we will help you get a compensation.  We listen to all scam cases e.g Romance scam, Email Fraud, Hacked bank account scams, Basically all kind of scams. Our Agents will create a case ID for you immediately and collect the necessary requirements. You will be forwarded to the reimbursement team within 24 hours.

WE ALSO PROVIDE LOAN TO BUSINESS(ES) AND INDIVIDUALS

Do you need loan for your business or for personal purposes? We have a partner loan company that will take your requests.  Reply this email with your loan requirements and a loan agent will take your request, forward it to the loan team and you will get a response all within 24 hours. If you need a very big loan, add that to your request, we will collect the required information, verify and endorse your request for faster approval.  Thanks

Scott James (UNSCB)”

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Anyone clicking on the links provided in the email to be connected to an agent would only end up providing personal information to a scammer that would enable the scammer to make the person responding to the email a scam victim again.  A Google search would easily show that there is no United Nations compensation board.  In addition, no agency can possibly guarantee that they can refund you the entire amount that you lost to a scammer.  Also, if the board was able to provide you with the entire amount that you had lost to a scam, why would you need to apply to them for a loan.  This scam is a good example of an email that looks legitimate, but when you read what it says, there is nothing that would  give the slightest indication that it is to be trusted.

If you find yourself a victim of a scam, you should report the scam to your local police, the consumer protection of your state attorney general,  and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).    Never provide personal information to anyone unless you are absolutely sure they are legitimate.

 

Scam of the day – February 25, 2016 – Sucker lists

Being scammed once is bad enough, but being scammed a second time by someone who convinces you that he or she is going to help you recover money you lost in the first scam is outrageous. Unfortunately, it is happening more and more as scammers sell, what are referred to as “sucker lists” of people whom they have scammed, to other scammers.  The criminal buying the list then contacts the victim of the earlier scam purporting to be from a company or agency that can help recover the funds lost to the first scam.  They always require an upfront payment, which is a good early indicator that this is a scam.  Sometimes they do absolutely nothing, but victimize the scam victim a second time, but other times they will actually file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or some other consumer protection agency.  However, filing a complaint with these agencies is something that the victim can do at no cost for himself or herself.

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Never pay an upfront fee to someone offering to help you recover money lost to a scam and never give personal information to someone who calls you offering to perform these services for you for an upfront fee.  It costs nothing to file a complaint with the police, the FTC, the CFPB or any other consumer protection agency.  In rare instances, you may wish to retain a lawyer to help you recover funds lost to a scammer, but attorneys generally take these cases on a contingency basis, which means that you do not have to pay them anything upfront.  They get paid out of whatever is recovered from the scammer.  Finally, most people who are on sucker lists are contacted by telephone.  If you have been a victim of a scam, you may wish to consider changing your telephone number to avoid the inevitable call from another scammer.

Scam of the day – August 2, 2015 – Senators Markey and Blumenthal file legislation to combat automobile hacking

In the wake of a recent video and story in Wired Magazine that showed how vulnerable today’s Internet connected automobiles are to dangerous hacking, United States Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal have filed legislation known as the SPY Car Act designed to provide requirements for automobile manufacturer’s to meet the threat of automobile hacking.  SPY is an acronym for Security and Privacy in Your car.  Senator Markey, in particular has long been concerned with the vulnerabilities of automobiles to being hacked and last February  issued a report that determined that the efforts of automakers around the world to prevent hackers from gaining control of cars electronically were “inconsistent and haphazard.”  Further, Markey concluded that most automakers did not even have systems for either detecting security breaches or responding to those breaches.  This new legislation is an attempt to respond to the lack of efforts by the automobile industry to effectively deal with this problem.

The bill if enacted into law would require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to develop industry wide standards to prevent vehicle control systems from being hacked into.  In addition, the bill would require privacy standards to be developed to protect the privacy of the data collected by our vehicles.  Finally, the bill if enacted into law would require cars to have a new cyber dashboard display that would be affixed to the windows of all new cars that indicated how well the particular type and brand of car protected security and privacy beyond the minimum standards set by law.

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Automobile hacking is just another part of the broad Internet of Things where we are all increasingly vulnerable to hacking that threatens our well being.  Companies have got to do a better job of incorporating security into all of the devices and products that we use that are connected to the Internet. It is only a matter of time before hacking into the products involved with the Internet of Things results in devastating consequences.  Here is a copy of my USA Today column I wrote in April about the Internet of Things and the dangers posed.   http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/2015/04/04/weisman-internet-of-things-cyber-security/70742000/

Here is a link to the legislation proposed by Senators Markey and Blumenthal.  If you support this legislation, I urge you to contact your Senators to request that they vote favorably on this bill.  http://www.markey.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/SPY%20Car%20legislation.pdf

Scam of the day – May 4, 2014 – Precious metals scams

Congressional hearings last week highlighted the problem of scam artists  fraudulently selling gold and other precious metals to people, many of them elderly.  Often these scams start with a telemarketing call to the victim in which he or she is told “inside” information about an upcoming rise in the prices for gold, silver or other precious metals.  The victims are then goaded into buying the metals at an inflated price and then must often pay additional commission and storage fees that result in the victims losing thousands of dollars.  Since 2001, it is estimated that precious metals fraud has cost consumers 300 million dollars.  Although the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Trade Commission both have jurisdiction in the advertising and sale of precious metals and have shut down some scammers, their record in protecting consumers from precious metal scams is lacking.

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No one should ever purchase an investment unless they fully understand the investment and no one should ever make an investment decision based solely on a telemarketing call.  Precious metals can be a part of a legitimate investment portfolio, however, this is a sophisticated investment that should only be done by people who are fully educated and informed not just about the investment itself, but also the brokers and others selling the particular investment.

Scam of the day – November 24, 2013 – Phony Yellow Pages scam

The Federal Trade Commission recently got an injunction stopping the operation of a scam based in Montreal, Canada, but aimed at American businesses and churches involving phony online business directory listings.  At the time that the FTC acted, the scammers, Mohamad Khaled Kaddoura, Derek Cessford and Aaron Kirby as well as the fifteen companies under which they operated had stolen more than fourteen million dollars from unsuspecting victims.  The scam would start with a phone call in which the scammers said that they were verifying contact information to update or confirm existing directory listings.  Other times they said that they were calling to verify information for cancellation of a listing.  In every instance, these were total misrepresentations because the businesses and churches called had no previous relationship with the callers.  The calls were then followed up with bills averaging about $500.  When the victims complained, the scammers played back portions of the initial telephone calls that made it sound like they actually did purchase the listing services.  If the victims still refused to pay, the then received calls purporting to be from collection agencies threatening legal action.

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Never provide information to anyone over the phone or in response to an email or text message unless you are absolutely sure that the person contacting you is legitimate and they have a legitimate need for the information you are providing.   In this case,  people receiving the original call should have refused to provide any information until they had verified that their company or church actually had an account with the caller, which, of course they did not.  Had they taken this simple step rather than provide information to someone they did not know, they could have avoided much trouble.  This is a valuable lesson for all of us.  Scammers will often sound legitimate, but being aware of that, you should always decline to provide information to anyone who contacts you until you have absolutely verified that the call is legitimate and the need for the information is legitimate.