Scam of the day – November 14, 2017 – Utility Scam Awareness Day

Scams involving utility bills for electric, water or gas services have long been popular with scammers.  Utilities United Against Scams, a consortium of more than 100 American and Canadian utility companies has designated tomorrow, November 15th as Utility Scam Awareness Day.

In one version of the scam, potential victims receive telephone calls purportedly from their utility company informing them of a special company promotion for which they are eligible.  They just need to provide some personal information.

In another version, potential victims are called on the phone and told that their utility service will be terminated for non-payment unless they pay by credit card or prepaid cards such as iTunes cards over the phone.

In a third version of this scam, potential victims receive an email that has a link to take them to their bill.

All of these are scams.  In the first, there is no special promotion and the victim ends up providing personal information that leads to identity theft. In the second, the victim is coerced into giving their credit card or prepaid card information  to a scammer and in the third, merely by clicking on the link to go to the phony bill, the victim ends up downloading keystroke logging malware or ransomware that can lead to identity theft or worse.

TIPS

You can never be sure when you get an email or a telephone call if it is really from a legitimate source.  Email addresses can be hacked to appear legitimate and even if you have Caller ID, a scammer can use a technique called “spoofing” to make it appear that the call is from a legitimate caller.

Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  Never provide personal or financial information to anyone in response to a telephone call, text message or email until you have independently confirmed that the communication was legitimate.  In the case of a utility bill, merely call the number on the back of your bill and you will be able to confirm whether or not the communication was legitimate.  Also, never click on links unless you have confirmed that they are legitimate.  The risk is too great.  It is also important to remember that no legitimate utility company will require you to immediately pay your bill over the phone with a prepaid card such as an iTunes card.

Scam of the day – August 23, 2017 – National Institutes of Health grant scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning people about an upsurge in phone calls from scammers posing as employees of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in which the scammers inform their targeted victims that they have been selected to receive a $14,000 grant from the NIH.  All they need to do is pay a processing fee through an iTunes card or a Green Dot money card.

This is a total scam and even if your Caller ID makes it appear that the call is from the NIH, your Caller ID can be tricked through a technique called “spoofing” to look like the call is from the NIH when it is not.

TIPS

You will never be called by the government to tell you that you have been awarded a grant for which you have not applied.  In addition, government grants do not charge a processing fee of any kind.  You can find out more information about federal grant providing agencies at www.grants.gov, however it is important to remember that grants are not given for personal purposes, but only for public projects.