Scam of the day – April 11, 2017 – Phony kidnapping scam expanding

I have been warning you about phony kidnapping scams for four years, but recently there has been a resurgence of this particular around the country.

The scam starts with a telephone call informing the person answering the phone that a child or other relative has been kidnapped and if they do not respond by wiring money right away, the relative will be killed.  As with so many scams, we are often our own worst enemy and this scam is no exception.  In many instances, the scammers gather personal information about the intended scam victims from information that the intended victims  or members of their families post on social media.  Information harvested from social media may indicate that someone is traveling on vacation making it easier to make the phony kidnapping appear legitimate.

Armed with  personal information gathered from social media, a scammer can describe the supposed kidnapped victim or provide personal information that would make it appear that indeed they actually do have the person in their custody. Commonly the ransom demanded is between $600 and $1,900 according to the FBI, however in a recent kidnapping scam in New York a ransom of $10,000 was paid.


Always be skeptical if you receive such a call.  Never wire money to anyone for anything unless you are totally convinced that what you are doing is legitimate because unlike paying for something with a credit card, once your wired funds have been sent, they are impossible to get back.  Talk to the alleged kidnapper as long as possible, thereby giving someone else with you the time to call  or text the alleged kidnap victim on his or her smartphone.   If the purported kidnapping victim is a young child, call the school to confirm that he or she is safe.   You also could ask the kidnapper to describe your relative as well as provide information, such as his or her birth date, which could be found on a driver’s license, however, it is important to remember that much of this kind of information may be available through social media or elsewhere on the Internet.

Many of these kidnapping scams are originating in Puerto Rico or Mexico so be particularly skeptical if you receive the telephone call from Puerto Rico area codes 787, 939 or 856.  Also be wary of calls from Mexico where the area codes which are quite numerous, but can be found by clicking on this link.

Scam of the day – September 26, 2015 – Employment recruiter scams

Searching for a job is much easier today with all of the resources of the Internet, however, unfortunately, it is also easier for scammers to search for victims posing as employment recruiters using the resources of the Internet.  The phony recruiters often reach out to people on social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  Many people provide personal information to these scammers who then use that information to make the job seeker a victim of identity theft.  Often the scammers will copy the logo of legitimate companies so that their emails may look legitimate.


As I always say, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”  You can never be sure when you receive an email, text message or communication by way of social media who is really contacting you.  For this reason, you should never provide personal information to a recruiter unless you have absolutely confirmed they are legitimate.  You can do this by contacting the HR department of the real company they may only be pretending to represent.   Real job postings can also be found on the websites of legitimate companies so if someone claims to be recruiting for a company that does not list such a job as being offered by the company on its website, you can expect that the recruiter is a scammer or identity thief.

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.


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 – December 13, 2012 – Grandparent scam update

You might wonder why I am warning you again about the grandparent scam as I did previously on February 27, 2012 and May 6, 2012.  The reason is that there has been another increase in occurrences of this scam and many people across the country are being swindled out of money through a scam that seems easy to identify, but in fact, when done by a skilled scam artist is very effective.   This scam is particularly prevalent during the holiday season.  Although there are many variations of the scam, generally they start with a telephone call from someone pretending to be a grandchild of the person receiving the call.  They then implore 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.


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.