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Scam of the day – January 21, 2020 – Puppy Scams Coming From India

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) pet scams involving the online sale of non-existent dogs have increased 39% since 2017.  People buy dogs or other pets online and although they think they are taking proper precautions, they often end up getting nothing in return for the money that they wire to the scammer who may have a website or some other way of marketing their non-existent pets with photographs and false information. Often the scammers hook their victims for more and more money, such as when even after the victims has paid for the non-existent dog, the victim is asked for further fees for a special crate to transport the dog along with additional transportation company fees.

Recently the BBB for Texas warned consumers about eleven phony dog breeding websites that scammed victims out of thousands of dollars.  The eleven phony breeders are Fluffy Frenchies, Fluffy Samoyeds, Kingdom Chows, Loyal Chows, Playful Frenchies, Pride Akitas, Smiling Samoyeds, Star Chow Chow, Stone Akitas, Study Bulldogs and True Frenchies.  While all of these phony breeders listed business addresses and phone numbers from the Fort Worth Texas area, none of the addresses or phone numbers indicated on the websites were legitimate.  All of the websites were registered to someone in India.

One victim of the scam was told on the day he was supposed to pick up his dog at the Pittsburgh airport that the crate used to send the dog was determined to be insufficient and that an additional $1,900 had to be paid for a proper crate.  Of course, it was all a scam.


It is simple for a scammer to construct a website that appears to be legitimate and scammers can readily steal the name of a legitimate animal breeder. Always check into the reputation of the breeder with the Better Business Bureau, your state’s attorney general and even Google the name with the word “scam” to see if a legitimate breeder’s name that is being used has been stolen for scams previously. Be wary of anyone who asks you to wire money because that is a telltale sign that a scam is going on because once the money is wired, it is impossible to get it back. If you are told that a courier company is being used to transport the animal, check out the company to make sure it is legitimate and actually shipping the dog. There also are a number of ways such as using the website to search the photos sent to you of the dog to see if they appear elsewhere other than the website attempting to sell you a puppy. If so, this is a good indication that you are being scammed. Also, always get a veterinarian report on any animal before you consider buying it. Finally, you are always going to be better off buying a pet that you can see in person prior to buying the pet.

Some phony breeders claim they are certified by the American Kennel Club (AKC) however, the AKC doesn’t certify breeders.  Legitimate breeders will however, register their litters with the AKC and you can find out by calling the AKC’s customer service line 919-233-9767 if a particular litter has been registered.

Here is a link to a television interview I did about pet scams:

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Scam of the day – January 20, 2020 – Equifax Settlement Claim Deadline Approaching

There has been a lot of reporting in the media about the major Equifax settlement of claims brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and all but two of the states’ Attorneys General related to the avoidable 2017 data breach in which personal data on more than 147 million people was stolen.  The stolen personal information included the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of 147 million people putting them in serious danger of identity theft for the rest of their lives.  Unfortunately, much of the reporting, most notably the reporting that everyone would be getting $125 is not accurate.

Here is what the agreement actually provides for:

  1.  Free credit monitoring for four years at all three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and six more years of free credit monitoring at just Equifax or if you already have credit monitoring, which we all should have, you can choose to receive  a payment of up to $125.
  2. Additional cash payments of as much as $20.000 for expenses you paid out of pocket in response to the Equifax data breach.  These reimbursement payments are intended to cover data breach related payments made by you such as the costs of freezing and unfreezing your accounts (which until September of 2018 cost between $3 and $12 each time you froze and unfroze your credit reports; since September 21, 2018 federal law removed all charges for freezing and unfreezing your credit reports), credit monitoring and fees paid to accountants or lawyers related to the data breach.
  3. Payments related to the time you spent dealing with the data breach at a rate of $25 per hour.  If your claim is for ten hours or less, you are required to describe the actions you took, such as freezing your credit reports at each of the three credit reporting agencies and the time that you spent on these activities.  If your claim is for more than ten hours, in addition to describing what you did, you must also provide copies of documents showing that you were a victim of identity theft or other problems related to misuse of your information.
  4. Seven years of free access to assistance through identity theft restoration services in the event that you do become a victim of identity theft.
  5. Beginning this year, you can get seven free credit reports each year for seven years from Equifax.  Federal law  already provides that you can get one free credit report  annually from each of the three major credit reporting agencies so now you can receive, upon request seven free credit reports from Equifax which you should spread out throughout the year as well as the single credit report per year from Experian and TransUnion.

Now for what is really going to happen.

While reports of the settlement have proclaimed that Equifax will be paying 700 million dollars to settle the claims against it brought by the various federal agencies and states’ Attorneys General, that number is extremely misleading.  Only 425 million dollars of that amount is earmarked for the benefit of consumers and only 31 million dollars of that amount is allocated toward the $125 cash payments.  The remaining 394 million dollars allocated toward consumers goes toward paying for the cost of the credit monitoring provided for in the settlement and the reimbursement payments, which most likely will be small for just about everyone.  In addition, once $125 payments total the allocated 31 million dollars, the payments will proportionately reduce.  This means that if even 5% of the people eligible filed for the $125 payment, they each would receive less than $5.


The first step to take is to find out if you were one of the 147 million people affected by the data breach and therefore eligible to apply for benefits under the settlement.  Here is a link to the section of the settlement website to input your information to determine if you were a part of the data breach.

If you were affected by the data breach, here is the link to the part of the settlement website where you can file a claim.   All claims must be filed no later than January 22, 2020, so if you are eligible and have not filed your claim yet, you should do so without delay. The settlement received final judicial approval on January 14th so the payments should begin shortly.

If you choose to receive free credit monitoring, now that the settlement has been approved by the court and if your claim has been approved, you will receive an activation code and instructions by your choice of email or regular mail.  Cash payments will be made by check or debit card and sent by regular mail.

A good question for many people is whether they should have or get identity theft protection services on their own if they accept the free credit monitoring and other services offered through the settlement.  My opinion is that the extensive benefits provided by private identity theft protection services can go far beyond the basic services provided by Equifax in the settlement.  Services such as Dark Web monitoring, credit score monitoring,  Social Security number monitoring and other services that are critical to protecting your identity are nowhere to be found in the services provided by Equifax in the settlement.

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Scam of the day – January 19, 2020 – FTC Shuts Down “Success By Health” Pyramid Scheme

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sued multi-level marketer “Success By Health” and its executives alleging that the company operated an illegal pyramid scheme.  The United States Federal Court for Arizona has granted a temporary restraining order shutting down the operation of “Success by Health” while the litigation progresses.  According to the FTC, “Success By Health” cheated their victims out of more than seven million dollars.  The flagship prodcut of “Success By Health” is an instant coffee product called “MyocoCafe” that contains a mushroom that “Success By Health” represented as providing significant health benefits although there is no evidence to that effect.  “Success By Health” operated as a multi-level marketing company, however, rather than a legitimate multi-level marketing company such as Amway, the FTC alleges that “Success By Health” operated as an illegal pyramid scheme through which its distributors made money by recruiting new distributors rather than through selling products which is the hallmark of an illegal pyramid scheme.  As Andrew Smith the FTC’s Director of Consumer Protection has said, “Participants in legitimate multi-level marketing companies earn money based on actual sales to real customers rather than recruitment.  But pyramid schemes depend on recruitment of new participants to pay out to existing participants, meaning that the vast majority of participants will ultimately lose money.”  “Success By Health” executives told prospective distributors that they could earn more than a million dollars per month, however, in order to do so they would have to recruit more than 100,000 affiliates working under them to achieve that level of profit.

Sometimes a legitimate multilevel marketing business may look quite similar to an illegitimate pyramid scheme, which is one of the reasons that so many people fall prey to these scams.  For every legitimate multilevel marketing company, such as Mary Kay and Amway, there are many that are just scams.  In a legitimate multilevel marketing company, investors make money by selling products to the public and by recruiting new salespeople.  In a pyramid scheme the source of profits is based primarily on the recruiting of new members or salespeople.


Anyone who is considering investing in what is represented to be a multilevel marketing business should always investigate the company and the terms of investment carefully before investing any money.  In addition, you should also check out the company with the FTC and your state’s attorney general to make sure that the company is legitimate before investing any money.  Here is a link to information from the FTC that you should consider before investing in a multilevel marketing business.

As for supplements that purport to provide health benefits, you should never buy them or sell them unless you have thoroughly investigated the legitimacy of the claims.

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Scam of the day – January 18, 2020 – Critical New Security Updates to Microsoft Windows Operating System

As was made abundantly clear by 2017’s  massive Wannacry ransomware attack that exploited a vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows operating system for which Microsoft had already issued a security update, constant updating of the software we all use with the latest security patches and updates is a critical part of avoiding scams and identity theft threats.  Whenever important new security updates and patches are issued, we provide access to these so that you can update your software to provide better security on your computers, smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices.  Updating your software with the latest security patches and updates as soon as possible is important because identity thieves and scammers are always finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in the software that we all use.  Delay in updating your software could lead to disastrous results.  However, it is also important to be sure that you are downloading legitimate patches and updates rather than being tricked by an identity thief or scammer into downloading malware under the guise of downloading a security patch or update.  Today’s security update involves serious vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows operating system which were discovered by the National Security Agency which alerted Microsoft to the problem, for which Microsoft issued a security patch on Tuesday, January 14th.


Here is a  link to this recent security update

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Scam of the day – January 17, 2020 – Free Cruise Scam Starts with a Robocall

Over the years I have written numerous times about the problems presented by robocalls and with good reason.  Automated robocalls which, for commercial purposes, are illegal, are the number one consumer complaint reported by the public to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at a cost to consumers of billions of dollars each year. The ease by which illegal robocalls may be made by computers accounts for much of the problem.

Recently the Federal Trade Commission settled charges it had brought against the operators of a robocall center that used robocalls in which it promised free tickets on a Caribbean cruise merely for taking a survey, however, if someone agreed to take the survey, they were referred to live telemarketers who attempted to sell them extensive upgrades.   In addition to violating federal laws pertaining to robocalls, the defendants also violated the federal Do Not Call list by calling people who had registered their numbers to be off limits to telemarketers.

Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted a new rule that allows cell phone carriers to automatically drop robocalls through the use of technology that is able to identify illegal robocalls and block them. This technology is called the SHAKEN/STIR standard. SHAKEN/STIR is an acronym for Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information using toKENs and the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited.  SHAKEN/STIR technology verifies calls with a symbol on your phone indicating that the person calling you is legitimate and  is actually calling you from the number that appears on your screen.  While it doesn’t block robocalls, it does let you know if the call is legitimate so you can decide not to answer shady calls.  The FCC required all phone networks to implement the technology by the end of of 2019.  AT&T and T-Mobile announced that SHAKEN/STIR is available for calls between those two networks.  Previously they had only implemented its use for calls within their own networks.  This is not a cure-all, but it is definitely a big step in the battle against phone fraud.


While SHAKEN/STIR is important, it is not the only weapon against robocalls.  As I first reported to you in the May 16th Scam of the day,  Verizon has implemented new services to help its customers avoid illegal robocalls.  The new Call Filter service offers spam alerts and new protections from robocalls for its wireless customers.  Customers will receive alerts when a call is most likely a scam.  The new Call Filter service will also automatically block robocalls based of the customer’s preferred risk level.  The Call Filter service is offered in a free version and an enhanced version that among other things will enable customers to create a personal robocall block list.  For more information about the Call Filter Services and how to sign up go to

There are a number of other options for preventing robocalls including a number of apps that for free or a small fee will  reduce and in some instances prevent robocalls.
Samsung’s SmartCall informs you if the call you are receiving is from a known robocaller. This feature is available with newer Samsung Galaxy phones. Here is a link to information about SmartCall and instructions as to how to activate this app.

Google also has a spam blocker that will warn you when you are receiving a robocall and your screen will turn red. Here is a link to information about the app and how to install it.

AT&T also offers free apps to block robocalls on iPhones and Android phones. Here is a link to information about these apps.

Verizon’s CallerName ID is a free service for iPhones and Android phones that will alert you to suspected robocallers. Here is a link to Verizon’s app.

T-Mobile offers a free scam blocker of known robocallers for Android phones which you can activate by merely dialing #662#

Sprint offers a paid service to protect your iPhone or Android phone from robocalls. For more information, use this link

For landlines as well as smartphones there are a number of apps such as Nomorobo, Truecaller, Hiya, RoboKiller and YouMail that offer robocall blocking for free or for small monthly charges. Here is a link to those apps. I have used Nomorobo for years and find it to be tremendously useful                                                                                                                                                              

Finally, you can just choose to ignore any calls that come from numbers you do not recognize.   This is a good option.  If they are legitimate calls, they will leave a message and you can call them back.

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Scam of the day – January 16, 2020 – Criminal Identity Theft Lands Innocent Man in Jail

Criminal identity theft occurs when someone steals your identity and then commits crimes using your name and Social Security number.  The problems encountered by someone whose identity has been stolen by a criminal who then commits crimes in the name of the identity theft victim are tremendous.   Victims of criminal identity theft have been arrested for crimes they never committed and often have had difficulty having the crimes, committed by someone who stole their identity, removed from their records.  A faulty criminal record can affect your ability to get a job or obtain various benefits. Recently in Daytona Beach, Florida, Jonah Scott Miller was stopped for a minor motor vehicle violation and when a record check was done, it appeared he had an outstanding arrest warrant for failing to appear in court for a shoplifting charge.  Despite Miller’s vehement protests that he had absolutely no criminal record and that they had arrested the wrong man, Miller was jailed overnight before it was determined that someone had stolen Miller’s identity and had committed the crimes using Miller’s name.


If you find that you are a victim of criminal identity theft, you should hire a lawyer and contact the police as well as the District Attorney’s office to straighten out the matter.  File a report indicating that you are the victim of identity theft.  It will be necessary for you to confirm your true identity through photographs and fingerprints. In addition, show law enforcement authorities your driver’s license, passport or any other identification that you might have that contains your photograph.

Get a letter from the District Attorney explaining the situation to have available if you are ever stopped for a traffic violation and your record is checked.  A few states have Identity Theft Passport programs through which anyone whose identity has been stolen by someone who uses it to commit crimes can, upon proving their identity, receive an Identity Theft Passport that protects them and confirms their true identity .  Even if your state does not have an Identity Theft Passport program, get a letter from the law enforcement agency that arrested the person using your name known as a “clearance letter” which indicates that you have not committed the crimes which were done by the identity thief who used your name.  Keep this document with you at all times.

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Scam of the day – January 15, 2020 – Income Tax Identity Theft

A recent report of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) had some good news in regard to what it estimated was the amount of income tax identity theft that the IRS had been able to stop prior to paying money to the income tax identity thieves.  Unfortunately, the report also had bad news as it estimated that at least 2.24 billion dollars was paid in 2015 by the IRS to income tax identity thieves and this figure is most likely quite a bit less than the real figure.  Income tax identity theft, by which identity thieves file phony income tax returns with counterfeit W-2s using the Social Security number and name of their victims is still a major problem for the IRS and taxpayers costing us all billions of dollars each year.  However, when someone has stolen your Social Security number and filed an income tax return using your name, the problem becomes particularly personal.

While you may think that income tax identity theft is a problem that only occurs around the April 15th filing date, it is actually a problem throughout the year.  The IRS recently issued a warning about a number of phishing emails that appear legitimate with the subject line reading “reminder” or “Automatic Income Tax Reminder” that lure people into providing personal information that will lead to their becoming a victim of identity theft.  These phishing emails may be particularly convincing and contain not only the IRS logo, but personal information about you that may trick you into thinking the email is legitimate.


The most important thing to remember is that the IRS will  not initiate any communications with you by email, text message or phone.  Their logo is easy to counterfeit and any personal information in the phishing email was probably gathered through data breaches in which the information about you was stolen.  Never provide personal information in response to an email, text message or phone call that purports to be from the IRS.  If you have any thought that the communication may be legitimate, call the IRS a the numbers indicated here which also let you know what information you will need to confirm your identity.

In addition to protecting the privacy of your Social Security number, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of income tax identity theft is to file your income tax return as early as possible.  A criminal can successfully make you a victim of income tax identity theft only if he or she files an income tax return using your Social Security number before you file your legitimate income tax return.  Therefore the earlier you file your income tax return, the more likely you are to avoid becoming a victim of this crime.  Recently the IRS announced that it will begin accepting income tax returns on January 27th.

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Scam of the day – January 14, 2020 – Bill Gates Is Not Offering To Give You Money

It has been more than a year since I first warned you about scams related to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but after receiving an email from a Scamicide reader telling me his story about almost becoming a victim of this particular scam, I decided that it was a good time to remind you all about this scam.  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a well-known, legitimate charity founded by Microsoft creator Bill Gates and his wife. It does not give random grants to people, however since 2015 a scam based on that premise has been victimizing people. Sometimes potential victims of this scam are targeted through emails.  Other times, such as in the case of the Scamicide reader it was through a Facebook message.  Below is a copy of the Facebook post that has been used to perpetrate this scam.. As with many similar scams, when someone responds to the email or social media post they are told that they need to pay a fee in order to receive their prize. One recent victim paid $11,000 to the scammers before she realized that it was a scam.  The Scamicide reader was told that through the scam he was told he had to pay a delivery charge of approximately $625.

The Facebook post presently circulating appears to come from the “Bill Gate Foundation,” which right away is an indication that it is a scam since it is missing the “s” at the end of Bill Gates’ name.  The post also contains a photograph of Gates helping a family.  Here is a copy of the Facebook post presently circulating which again misspells Gates’ name.


Tell me one thing you need from me, and i will do it for you

1. M0NEY – 5OOK

2. CAR






Use the (SEND MESSAGE) button below and send me a message today, and I will surprise you..

Start now!”


Lottery and sweepstakes scams continue to snare people because too many of us get blinded by our own greed to remember that while it is difficult to win any lottery, it is impossible to win one that you have never entered.  Further, no legitimate lottery ever will ask you to pay anything to claim your prize.  While income taxes are owed on lottery winnings, those taxes are either deducted from your prize before you receive your prize as with state sponsored lotteries or you receive the entire prize and are responsible on your own for paying the income taxes on your winnings.  No legitimate lottery or sweepstakes ever collects income tax payments from lottery winners.

Another telltale indication that this is a scam is the poor grammar used in the Facebook post which often is an indication that the scam is originating in a country where English is not the primary language.
The real Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a page on their website where they warn you about the various scams linked to their foundation.  It should be noted that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation does not give grants to individuals, does not give grants that have not been applied for and do not charge any fees.

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Scam of the day – January 13, 2020 – Legislators Urge FCC to Action Against SIM Swapping

SIM card swapping is a major problem.  A Subscriber Identity Module, more commonly known as a SIM card, is an integrated circuit that stores information used to authenticate subscribers on mobile devices, such as a cell phone.  The SIM card is able to be transferred between different devices, and often is, when people update into a newer cell phone.  However, as more and more financial transactions, such as online banking, are now done through cell phones, identity thieves with access to their victims’ SIM cards are also increasingly becoming able to intercept security codes sent by text messages for online banking as part of dual factor authentication and thereby providing the identity thief with the opportunity to empty their victims’ bank accounts and cause other financial havoc.

SIM card swapping or porting as it is sometimes referred to is the name for the crime where someone convinces your phone carrier to transfer your SIM card to a phone controlled by the criminal. By SIM swaps criminals can reset passwords on online accounts and requested dual factor authentication codes be sent to their phones which will render dual factor authentication useless as a security measure.  Sometimes criminals contact the mobile service providers for their victims posing as the victims and trick the mobile service provider employees to swap the SIM cards to phones controlled by the criminals  Other times criminals bribe employees at their victims’ mobile service providers to achieve the SIM swap.

Recently three senators and three members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  urging the FCC to do more to protect consumers from SIM card swapping and asked seven detailed questions related to actions necessary to prevent SIM card swapping.  The legislators set a deadline of February 14th for the FCC to respond.  Here is a link to their letter.


The best protection for your phone starts with a strong password, facial recognition or fingerprint scanner.  Also, set your phone so that it locks when you are not using it.  Make sure that you back up everything in your phone regularly. Install the Find My iPhone app if you have an iPhone or the Find My Device app if you have an Android phone.  These will enable you to locate your cellphone if it is lost or stolen and also allow you to send a command to erase everything in your cellphone even if the phone has been turned off.  If your phone is lost or stolen, you should immediately contact your wireless provider to have them disable the SIM card in your phone so that your phone cannot be used by someone else.  As for protecting your phone from cyberattacks, it is important to both download and continually update security software.

Perhaps the best thing you can do to  protect your SIM card from porting is to set up a PIN or password to be used for access to your mobile service provider account. This will help prevent a criminal from calling your carrier posing as you and convincing your mobile carrier to swap your SIM card to the criminal’s phone merely by providing personal identifying information or answering a security question.

AT&T will allow you to set up a passcode for your account that is different from the password that you use to log into your account online.   Without this passcode, AT&T will not swap your SIM card.   Here is a link with instructions as to how to set up the passcode.!/wireless/KM1051397?gsi=9bi24i

Verizon enables customers to set up a PIN or password to be used for purposes of authentication when they contact a call center.  Here is a link with information and instructions for setting up a PIN with Verizon.

T-Mobile will allow you to set up a passcode that is different from the one you use to access your account online.  This new passcode is used when changes to your account are attempted to be made such as swapping a SIM card.  This code will not only protect you from criminals attempting to call T-Mobile and swap your SIM card, but will also prevent someone with a fake ID from making changes to your account at a T-Mobile store.  Here is a link to information and instructions for adding a new passcode to your account.

Sprint customers can establish a PIN that must be provided when doing a SIM swap, in addition to merely answering a security question, the answer to which may be able to be learned by a clever identity thief.  Here is a link to information about adding a PIN to your Sprint account.

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Scam of the day – January 12, 2020 – Fake Draft Notices Cause Panic Among Young Men

Although the United States has not had a military draft since 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War, young men are still required to register for the draft upon reaching the age of eighteen.  Presently there are no plans whatsoever for the re-institution of draft, however, following the developments in Iran last week following the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, there have been many false stories floating on the Internet regarding the military draft being reinstated.  In addition, many people received text messages telling them that they had been drafted into the Army and must report for immediate departure to Iran.  The texts also have been threatening imprisonment if the person receiving the text message ignored the text message.  All of the text messages and stories about a new military draft are false although this did not stop concerned young men receiving the text messages from shutting down the website of the Selective Service System by flooding it with more traffic than the website could handle in attempting to find out the truth.

The truth is that there is no draft.  New legislation that is not even being considered would be required to reinstate the draft.


This particular scam appears to have been done merely for purposes of disruption and not for profit.  The text messages did not ask for any personal information that could be used for purposes of identity theft.  In regard to the draft, it is important to know that the Selective Service does not contact people by text messages, emails or phone calls.  Nor do other federal agencies.  Impostor scams in which the scammer poses as a governmental agent from the IRS, Medicare, the Social Security Administration or some other governmental agency are exceedingly common.  Generally, they attempt to frighten people into either paying money to resolve some problem or providing personal information that can be used to make the person a victim of identity theft.  The best course of action if you do receive a telephone call, text message or email appearing to come from a governmental agency asking for either personal information or a payment is to confirm with that agency whether or not the communication was legitimate.  Generally, they are not.

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