Scam of the day – September 3, 2017 – Western Union lottery email scam

People are reporting receiving the email copied below informing them that they are one of seven people who have won a huge cash prize through a non-existent program described as the United Nations Poverty Alleviation Program. The idea behind this scam is simple and one that has been used many times previously. You are told, as with the Nigerian letter scam or phony lottery scams, that you have won or inherited a large amount of money. At first you are told that there are no fees involved, but as your communications with the scammer increase, you are asked time and time again for money under various guises, such as necessary fees or administrative costs.  Ultimately, you receive nothing.

As scam emails go, this one is not particularly good and has a myriad of indications that it is a scam.  It purports to come from Western Union, but even though it carries a legitimate looking Western Union logo, the email address is that of someone whose email account has been hacked and made a part of a botnet to send out massive amounts of these emails.  In addition, the email is directed to “Dear Beneficiary” rather than your real name.  As with many other scams that may originate in foreign countries, the grammar is quite poor.


It is hard to win a contest or lottery you enter.  It is impossible to win one that you have never entered.  Whenever you receive such an email, you should be immediately skeptical.  It is also important to remember that no legitimate lottery will ever ask you for fees or administrative costs to claim your prize.  In addition, while income taxes are owed on lottery winnings, no lottery collects them from you.  They either deduct taxes from your prize or leave it to you to pay the taxes to the IRS.



Scam of the day – October 5, 2016 – Latest twist on the grandparent scam

I have been reporting to you about the grandparent scam for more than four years because people continue to fall for this scam losing thousands of dollars to scammers posing as an elderly victim’s grandchild.  The scam starts with a late-night telephone call to an elderly victim from a scam artist, the only criminal, we refer to as artists, posing as their intended victim’s grandchild who has been involved in some sort of emergency and needs the grandparent to send them money right away. The criminals often manage to gather valuable information from obituaries and social media of young people, such as the particular names the grandchild may use to refer to their grandparents to make the calls seem more legitimate.

For years the preferred method that the scammers instructed their victims to use for sending funds was by wiring the money from Western Union or MoneyGram, however, employees of these companies are now being trained to inquire when suspicious amounts are being sent, particularly overseas.  In response, scammers are now telling their victims to buy iTunes Gift cards and give the scammers the numbers by phone so they can access the funds.


Never wire money unless you are absolutely sure about to whom you are wiring the money and it is not a scam.  Once you have wired money, it is gone forever.  If a claim about a medical or legal emergency is made, contact the hospital or legal authorities in the area to confirm that the information is accurate.  Make sure that you have the cell phone number of your grandchild as well as  anyone with whom your child or grandchild is traveling so you can confirm any calls claiming that an emergency has arisen.  Call the child directly on his or her cell phone to confirm the story.  Students traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at  This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.

As for being asked to send fund by way of iTunes Gift cards as scammers are increasingly doing in this scam and other scams, this is always a scam so it is easy to spot.

Scam of the day – September 8, 2014 – Green Dot phasing out MoneyPak debit card

The MoneyPak reloadable debit card made by Green Dot, a California based company is very popular with many consumers to conveniently send money anywhere you want.  It also is a very convenient way for scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists, to scam you out of money with effectively no way of getting your money back.  Under various guises including phony calls from scammers posing as IRS agents claiming you must make a payment to them by phone, scammers tell their victims to provide them with the activation code and security number of the MoneyPak card to make a payment to avoid serious problems.  Recently Green Dot announced that it would be phasing out the MoneyPak card early in 2015 and replacing it with a new reloadable debit card that will move reloading of cards to the cash registers of retailers to be done through a card processing machine that the company says will reduce fraud.


Whether or not the phasing out of the old MoneyPak debit card will reduce fraudulent use of Green Dot’s cards remains to be seen.  Scammers still can exploit this technology as well.  It is also important to remember that MoneyPak is not the only prepaid debit card.  Many others still have the same vulnerability to fraud.  Prepaid debit cards and wiring of money are primary choices of scammers because of the near impossibility of ever getting your money back once you realize you have been scammed.  Therefore anytime you are asked to send money for any purpose by way of a prepaid debit card or wiring money from your bank account or a company such as Western Union, you should carefully consider whether or not the transaction is legitimate.


Scam of the day – October 23, 2012 – eFax Scam

It is relatively easy to make an email appear to come from a legitimate company, copying their logo and other material that will make an email from a scammer/identity thief appear to come from the legitimate company.  Phony emails purporting to be from companies such as UPS, the United States Postal Service, FedEx and Western Union have been a standard way that identity thieves and scammers lure people into clicking on a link in the email and downloading a keystroke logging malware program that will steal all of the information from your computer including passwords, credit card numbers and more that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft.  The latest version of this scam is one that purports to come from the legitimate company eFax, but in fact is from a scammer who copies an eFax communication.


Never click on links that you are not sure are in legitimate emails.  If in doubt, call the company to confirm whether or not the email is legitimate.  Many of these emails are addressed not to you by name but rather to “Dear Customer,” which is an indication that it is not legitimate.  You can also pass your mouse over the link to see where it is sending you, but even then the URL that it shows may have been spoofed or copied from one that appears to be legitimate.  It is also important to keep your computer security software up to date.  The present eFax phony email is coming from Australia, which is not where eFax is located.