Scam of the day – September 17, 2017 – Scammers attempting to exploit Equifax data breach

As I often say, things aren’t as bad as you think – they are far worse.  It is not bad enough that 143 million Americans are at heightened danger of identity theft due to the massive data breach at credit reporting agency, Equifax, but now scammers are seeing the concern of people about the data breach as an opportunity to scam them out of their money.

Scammers are contacting people by phone, email and text messages posing as Equifax claiming that they are there to help the victims of the data breach, when the truth is that the scammers merely want to lure you into providing personal information and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.   You can’t trust your Caller ID because through a technique called “spoofing” it can be manipulated to make a call from a scammer appear to be coming from Equifax.

TIPS

It is a good rule to never provide personal information of any kind to someone who calls you on the phone.  If the call appears legitimate, call the person, company or agency back at a telephone number that you know is accurate.

The same rule applies to emails and text messages you receive.  Never provide personal information until you have confirmed that the communication is legitimate.

In this case, Equifax is not contacting victims by email, phone or text messages asking for personal information or credit card information.

September 8, 2017 – Steve Weisman interviewed on WJAR about protecting your phone

Here is  link to a story in which I was interviewed by Consumer Reporter Emily Volz on NBC 10 News in Providence, Rhode Island about dangers we all face on our cell phones and what we can do to protect ourselves.

http://turnto10.com/i-team/consumer-advocate/thieves-are-stealing-phone-numbers-accessing-sensitive-information

Scam of the day – April 26, 2017 – New survey indicates Americans lost 9.5 billion dollars to phone scams last year

A recent survey done by Harris Poll on behalf of Truecaller, a company that provides phone security services concludes that during the last twelve months approximately 22.1 million Americans were victims of various phone scams both on their landlines and smartphones with an average loss of $430 per victim which is a 56% increase from a similar survey done in 2015.

Phone scams come in a variety of forms including phony charity solicitations and fake IRS calls, but they all have one thing in common. They can easily steal your money if you are not careful.

The survey also showed who was being scammed and the results were interesting.  American men were almost twice as likely to become a victim of phone fraud as American women and millennial males were the most vulnerable group of all.

The survey also pointed out vulnerabilities of people on their smartphones where 72% of the fraudulent losses occurred.  In 2014, smartphones accounted for just 29% of fraudulent phone call losses.  Of course, with increased use of text messaging, fraudulent text messages open up a new venue for scammers.

TIPS

The first defense against phone scammers is skepticism.  You can never be sure when you receive a phone call or a text message as to who is really contacting you.  Even if you have Caller ID, scammers can use a technique called spoofing to make the call appear to be originating from a legitimate source.  Never provide personal information including credit card information to anyone who calls you or text messages you without confirming the legitimacy of the call or text message.  You also may wish to use services like nomorobo which screens robocalls or Truecaller which screens your phone calls and text messages.

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 – September 1, 2014 – Phone scams

Although so much of our attention is focused on scams perpetrated on the Internet and through means of high technology, a recent survey confirmed that low technology, namely the telephone still is fertile ground for many scams.  According to the Truecaller/Harris survey more than 17 million Americans became victims of telephone scams during the past year at a cost of 8.6 billion dollars.  One specifically telephone connected scam is “cramming” where fraudulent charges are added to your phone bill and often go unnoticed by people who pay little attention to the detailed information provided in lengthy, monthly phone bills particularly for wireless service. There are many ways that these unauthorized charges make their way to a victim’s phone, sometimes, consumers actually unknowingly sign up for premium texting services that may be for things such as flirting tips, horoscopes or celebrity gossip.  Whatever the source of the charges, they are fraudulent and typically cost about $9.99 per month and continue to appear for months without end.  You can find more detailed information about cramming by putting the word “cramming” into the archives section of Scamicide.  Other telephone related fraud occurs when people provide personal information over the phone when called by scamming telemarketers or to scammers who entice or scare the person receiving the call to either provide personal information or make a payment, such as in the present scam in which you receive a call purportedly from the IRS demanding payment for outstanding taxes.

TIPS

In regard to protecting yourself from cramming, you should never click on links or sign up for anything unless you have carefully read the fine print to see what else you may be signing up for.  In fact, you should never click on links in an email or text message unless you have independently verified that it is legitimate.  As for calls from telemarketers, not all telemarketers are criminals, but unfortunately, you have no way of knowing when you receive a call whether or not the person on the other end of the conversation is indeed legitimate or not so you should never provide personal information or payment in response to a telephone call until you have independently verified the call.  You may even wish to put yourself on the federal Do Not Call list to avoid telemarketers.  If you do get a call from a telemarketer after you have put yourself on the list, you know that the person is not legitimate and you should ignore the call.  Here is a link to the Do Not Call list if you wish to enroll.  https://www.donotcall.gov/  You can still receive calls from charities even if you are on the Do Not Call List, but again, you cannot be sure that the person calling is really from the charity so never give money over the phone to a telemarketer who calls you on behalf of a charity.  It is also worth noting that when you do make a charitable donation to a legitimate charity telemarketer, the telemarketer takes a percentage of your contribution as a commission.  If you want your donation to do the most good, you should contact the charity directly to make your donation.

Scam of the day – December 18, 2012 – Newtown charity scams and similar charity scams

As I warned you, the very day after the horrible shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, scammers and identity thieves will be preying upon both our best and worst instincts in response to the tragedy.  People seeking videos and photographs of the event may find themselves clicking on links that purport to provide you with such material, but may only end up downloading keystroke logging malware that will steal all of the information from the computers of the curious people who will find themselves becoming victims of identity theft.  Go back to Saturday, December 15ths “Scam of the Day” for more particulars.  The next step in scams stemming from the murders will be the pleas for charitable contributions for the victims and others similarly situated.  You should always be wary when anyone asks you for a charitable donation, but particularly when a charitable solicitation quickly follows an emotional event such as the killings in Connecticut.  You will want to make sure that you are giving to legitimate charities that will use your contribution wisely rather than giving your money to a scammer or a “legitimate” charity that misuses your donations by paying its administrator inordinately large salaries.  Particularly during this time of the year, you will likely find yourself being solicited by various police and firefighter charities.  Many of these are scams and it is important to know the difference between a legitimate charity and a phony one.

TIP

Whenever you are contacted by a charity whether by text, phone, email or otherwise, you can never be sure that the person contacting you legitimately represents the charity or that the charity itself is legitimate.  If you are charitably inclined, you should not respond directly to the person or entity soliciting you, but rather first, confirm that the charity itself is legitimate.  At this time of year there are many charities that contact you, particularly those purporting to represent firefighters and local police that are scams.  Many phony charities have similar names to legitimate charities, particularly those purporting to collect for local fire and police departments. You should always check out the legitimacy of the charity first before considering making a contribution.  A good place to find out if a charity is legitimate or merely has a name that sounds legitimate is www.charitynavigator.org.  This website also will provide you with information as to how much of the charity’s collected donations actually are applied to its charitable works and how much goes to administrative fees and salaries.  As a general rule of thumb if a charity spends more than 25% of its donations on salaries and administrative costs, you may wish to contribute to another charity.