Scam of the Day

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Scam of the day – February 19, 2019 – FTC Refunding Millions to Victims of Weight Loss Supplement Scam

Weight loss scams are among the most common scams and with good reason. Many people want to lose weight and most of the scam products promise to do that for you easily without diet or exercise. The unfortunate truth is that there is no magic formula for quick and easy weight loss without diet and exercise, but scammers continue to prey on people looking for that quick solution to their weight difficulties.  Recently the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Maine Attorney General settled cases against Direct Alternatives, Original Organics, LLC and their owners Anthony Dill and Staci Dill related to the fraudulent sales of bogus weight loss supplements AF Plus and Final Trim.  The defendants falsely claimed that theses products would enable people to quickly and easily lose weight.   They also used phony scientific studies to support their claims.  In addition, the defendants offered free “risk free” trial offers and then without informing their customers, automatically enrolled them in programs charging them for products monthly.

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For more information about this refund program go to the tab in the middle of the Scamicide home page entitled “FTC Scam Refunds.”

As for weight loss products in general, the truth is that there are no quick fixes when it comes to weight loss and you should be wary of any product that promises you can lose tremendous amounts of weight quickly without dieting or exercise.  You should also be wary of any weight loss product that is sold exclusively either over the Internet or through mail-order advertisements. The best course of action is to ask your physician about the effectiveness of a particular weight loss product or program before you reduce your wallet in an effort to reduce your waistline.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”

Scam of the day – February 18, 2019 – Travel Agency Scams

Over the years, I have warned you about many travel related scams.  Recently the Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued a warning in particular about phony travel agencies scamming people regarding school sponsored trips.  According to the BBB, the scam starts when what appears to be a legitimate travel agency contacts the school with a proposal for a reasonably priced school trip.  Once the school and the parents of the students have agreed to work with the travel agency, the scammers start to change the terms of the contract including requiring the parents or the school to initially pay for plane tickets, hotel rooms and other trip related costs that were to have been taken care of by the travel agency.  Prepayment is common for travel services, which is why travel scams are so popular with scammers.  Ultimately, there are no plane tickets, hotel rooms booked and the entire venture is a scam through which the phony travel agency steals the money collected from parents and the school.  While the BBB warning dealt just with school trips, phony travel agencies and phony travel bargains are scams that victimize anyone conned by these scammers.

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There are a number of things that you should do to protect yourself from this type of scam.  First and foremost you should do your research as to the legitimacy of the particular travel agency.  You should only work with travel agencies that are accredited by major organizations such as the American Society of Travel Advisors (ATSA) or the International Air Transport Association (IATA).  In addition, you should investigate whether the particular agent with whom you are working is accredited as a Certified Travel Associate (CTA), Certified Travel Counselor (CTC) or Certified Travel Industry Executive (CTIE).  Verify any reservations claimed to have been made by the travel agency with the airline and/or hotel directly.

Never make any payments without reviewing a written contract that provides all of the details of the services to be provided and the cost thereof.  Of course if the cost of the trip appears “too good to be true,” you can be pretty sure that indeed it is not true and is a scam.  Use a credit card to make your payments because if the travel services are a scam, it is a relatively easy task to have the charges removed from your credit card.

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Scam of the day – February 17, 2019 – FTC Settles Claims Against Business Opportunity Scammers

In the Scam of the day for August 12, 2018 I reported to you that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Minnesota Attorney General had filed a lawsuit and obtained a temporary restraining order against Sellers Playbook and its principals in regard to a business opportunity scam in which they sold their “secret” system for earning thousands of dollars each month by selling goods on Amazon. The program in no way was affiliated with or approved by Amazon and although Seller’s Playbook claimed that by following the system its customers could earn $20,000 a month and potential net profits of millions of dollars, the promises were phony and there was no secret system. According to the lawsuit filed by the FTC and  the State of Minnesota, the defendants cheated their customers out of more than 15 million dollars between April of 2017 and May of 2018 with most of their victims paying them more than $32,000. Now the case has been settled with Sellers Playbook Inc. and its principals, Jessie Conners Tieva, Matthew R. Tieva and their other company Exposure Marketing Company being banned from selling or assisting others to sell any business opportunity or business coaching program.  A judgment of 20.8 million dollars was also ordered by the Federal District Court of Minnesota, however the judgment will be suspended once the defendants surrender all corporate assets as well as substantial assets owned by Matthew and Jessie Tieva.

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The sale of business opportunities is regulated by the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule which requires the sellers of business opportunities to provide a one-page disclosure document outlining important facts about the offering including informing you about any legal actions in which the sellers have been involved. In this particular case some of the defendants had previously been sued by the FTC for operating a similar scam. The disclosure also has to provide you with details as to any refund policy and provide a list of references. Additionally, as is always the case with these types of scams, if they make claims about how much money you can earn through their scheme, they must provide you with an Earnings Claim Statement that indicates in detail the specifics of those claims and the opportunity to see written proof of the claims.

Before considering any kind of business opportunity, you should have a lawyer review these required disclosures and if the person offering you the business opportunity does not provide these documents, you should consider that a red flag that this is a scam. You also should investigate the people behind the offering as well as the particular type of business opportunity.

I will continue to follow this case and if a refund program is instituted by the FTC, I will let you know about it and how to make a claim if you were victimized by this scam.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”

Scam of the day – February 16, 2019 – Seniors, Scams and Identity Theft

The Senate Special Committee on Aging recently estimated that seniors lose 2.9 billion dollars each year to scammers and identity thieves  According to the committee the top ten scams targeting seniors are, IRS impersonators where the scammers, posing as IRS agents threaten their victims with tremendous penalties and consequences unless they pay taxes that really aren’t owed; Robocalls which are automated phone calls used as the basis of many different types of scams; Lottery scams such as the infamous Jamaican Lottery which uses phone lists of seniors to specifically target older people with phone calls in which they tell the senior that they have won a lottery, but must pay fees or taxes; Tech support fraud where people are convinced into paying for unnecessary tech support for their computers; Elder financial abuse by family members, home care workers and others who prey upon seniors to get at their assets;  Grandparent scam, where the seniors are called and tricked into sending money to scammers posing as their grandchildren in financial need due to some purported emergency;  Fake Social Security telephone calls where scammers call their victims and lure them into providing their Social Security numbers and other information used to make them victims of identity theft;  and lawsuit or arrest threats where the senior receives a call that appears to come from a law enforcement agency threatening arrest unless payments are made and Identity theft which is the second most common consumer complaint and can cause serious harm.

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Regular readers of Scamicide are familiar with the many times I have written about all of these scams and what you can do to protect yourself and members of your family from becoming victims of these scams.  On Thursday, February 21st I will be doing a free Webinar on Seniors, Scams and Identity Theft sponsored by the law firm of Margolis and Bloom with which I am affiliated.  Here is a link to where you can sign up for this free seminar.  I hope many of you can attend.  https://www.margolis.com/events-blog/webinar-seniors-scams-identity-theft

In the Webinar, I will be describing the above-described scams and many more as well as telling you how you can protect yourself and members of your family from becoming victims.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”

Scam of the day – February 15, 2019 – Latest Security Updates from the Department of Homeland Security

It is always important to update all of the software you use with the latest security updates and patches as soon as they are available. Numerous hacks and data breaches could have been avoided if individuals as well as companies installed security updates when they became available. Hackers take advantage of the fact that many of us procrastinate installing security software to our great detriment. The major data breach at Equifax that affected 148 million people involved a security flaw in Apache software for which a patch had already been issued months earlier, but Equifax had not yet installed at the time of the data breach.  The following updates have been classified as particularly critical.

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Here is a link to the newest update for Mozilla Firefox as supplied by the Department of Homeland Security https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2019/02/12/Mozilla-Releases-Security-Updates-Firefox

Here is a link to the newest update for MIcrosoft as supplied by the Department of Homeland Security https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2019/02/12/Microsoft-Releases-February-2019-Security-Updates

Here is a link to the newest updates for various Adobe programs as supplied by the Department of Homeland Security https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2019/02/12/Adobe-Releases-Security-Updates

Here is a link to the newest updates for various Apple programs including FaceTime https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2019/02/07/Apple-Releases-Multiple-Security-Updates

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Scam of the day – February 14, 2019 – FTC Refunding Money to Victims of Tech Support Scam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just announced that it is mailing refund checks to the victims of a tech support scam perpetrated by Troth Solutions.  The funds for this refund are derived from a settlement between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the State of Alabama and Troth Solutions of charges Troth scammed people into believing their computers were infected with malware when the truth is that Troth was charging for unnecessary repairs.  Troth called intended victims and also used online ads that appeared to be security alerts from major tech companies to trick people into  giving the company remote access to their computers after which Troth would run what it called diagnostic tests which always found non-existent problems for which they charged their victims an average of $380 to repair. For more information about this refund program, click on the FTC Scam Refunds tab in the middle of the first page of www.scamicide.com.

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If you did business with Troth Solutions you may be eligible for a refund. It is important to note that you do not have to pay any administrative fee to claim your refund if you are eligible for a refund. Anyone asking for such a fee is just another scammer. Whenever you get a pop-up, email, or text message that appears to tell you that you have a security problem with your computer, you should never click on any links contained in the message or call the telephone number provided. If your screen gets frozen, all you need to do is just turn off your computer and restart it. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing a real security problem you can contact tech support at Apple or Microsoft directly by phone or by email using the phone number and email addresses you find on their respective websites.

Providing remote access to anyone to your computer can lead to a myriad of problems including identity theft and the downloading of ransomware.  Neither Apple nor Microsoft or any of the other tech companies ever provide notices of security problems that contain telephone numbers for you to call to fix the problem.  Whenever you get a pop-up, email, or text message that appears to tell you that you have a security problem with your computer, you should never click on any links contained in the message or call the telephone number provided. If your screen freezes, all you need to do is just turn off your computer and restart it. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing a real security problem you can contact tech support at the real tech companies directly by phone or by email using the phone number and email addresses you find on their respective websites.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”

Scam of the day – February 13, 2019 – FTC Halts Phantom Debt Collectors

Receiving a telephone call from a debt collector is not a pleasant experience. Being hounded by someone attempting to collect a debt you do not owe is fraud. These non-existent debts are sometimes referred to as “phantom debts.”  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  obtained a temporary restraining order stopping Global Asset Financial Services Group, LLC , ten affiliated companies and their six individual principals from continuing to use deceptive and threatening tactics to collect phantom debts from consumers that were not even owed by the consumers.   In some instances the scammers posed as attorneys and threatened lawsuits if their victims did not pay the non-existent debts.  The case against Global Asset Financial Services Group, LLC and the other defendants is continuing in the Federal District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.

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Subject to strict federal laws, legitimate debt collectors are permitted to call debtors, however, the law prohibits them from threatening imprisonment for the failure to pay a debt and attempting to collect a debt that the debt collector knows is bogus.  It can be difficult to know when someone calls attempting to collect a debt if indeed the debt collector is legitimate or not, so the best course of action if you receive such a call is to not discuss the debt with the person calling, but instead demand that they send you a written “validation notice” by regular mail which describes the debt they allege you owe and includes a listing of your rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Never give personal information over the phone to anyone who calls you attempting to collect a debt. You can never be sure who they are.  If you receive the validation notice and it appears to be legitimate, you may be better off contacting your creditor directly because the person who called you may not be representing the creditor, but may merely have information about the debt.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”

Scam of the day – February 11, 2019 – Valentine’s Day Scams

Valentine’s Day is in three days.   This is a very important day to many people including scammers and identity thieves who always manage to find an opportunity in whatever is going on to scam you out of your money.  There are many Valentine’s day scams, but the most prevalent are phony florists, online dating scams, phony Valentine’s day electronic greeting cards and delivery scams.

Scammers set up phony florist websites or send you an email purporting to be from a local florist with a great deal you merely have to click on in order to save a great deal of money on flowers.

Online dating scams are plentiful with most revolving around scammers quickly professing true love for you and then asking for money.

Electronic greeting cards are a great way to send a Valentine’s day card at the last minute when you forget to get one ahead of time, but phony electronic greeting cards can be filled with malware and if you click on the link to open the card, you will infect your computer or other electronic device with malware that will steal your personal information and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

A common delivery scam operating on Valentine’s day involves a delivery of a gift basket of wine and flowers to you, however the person delivering the gift basket requests a small payment, generally five dollars or less, as a delivery fee because alcohol is being delivered.  The person delivering the basket will only accept a credit card as payment.  When you turn over your credit card, the scammer then takes down the information and runs up charges on your credit card.

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Never trust an online florist or other retailer until you have checked them out to make sure that they are legitimate.  Otherwise, you might be turning over your credit card information to a scammer.  It is also important to remember, as I constantly warn you, that you can never be confident when you receive an email, particularly one with a link in it or an attachment to download, if the person sending you the email is who they claim to be.  Clicking on links sent by scammers can download keystroke logging malware on to your computer or other electronic device that will, in turn, enable the identity thief to steal personal information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.  Always confirm the legitimacy of an email or text message before clicking on links contained in the message.

As for online dating scams, of course you should be wary of anyone who immediately indicates he or she is in love with you and then asks for money.  Some other telltale signs of an online romance scam include wanting to communicate with you right away on an email account outside of the dating site, claiming to be working abroad, asking for your address and poor grammar which is often a sign of a foreign romance scammer.  Many romance scams originate in Eastern Europe.

Never trust an online greeting card, particularly if it does not indicate from whom it is being sent.  Be very wary of a card sent by “an admirer.”  Even if you recognize the name, confirm that it was really sent from that person before you click on the link and open the card. It could be filled with malware.

In regard to the delivery scam, there is no special delivery charge for alcohol so if someone requires a payment for such a delivery and on top of that won’t accept cash, merely decline the gift.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”

Scam of the day – February 10, 2019 – LuLaRoe Sued by State of Washington Attorney General

Pyramid schemes are a type of scam that has been around for many years, but keeps popping up and scamming unsuspecting victims taken in both by their lack of skepticism and an abundance of greed, which is a profitable combination for scam artists.  Recently, Bob Ferguson, the Attorney General for the State of Washington sued LuLaRoe and several of its executives accusing the company of being an illegal pyramid scheme and alleging that the company made deceptive claims to lure in people to become “consultants” for the company at an initial cost of as much as $9,000.  According to Attorney General Ferguson, people were told that they could earn up to $75,000 per year working only 20 hours a week and that some LuLaRoe consultatns earned as much as $500,000 per month.  These representations were misleading and false.

Pyramid schemes are disguised as purported businesses, however, if you carefully evaluate the business you will see that the primary source of profit for the business is in enrolling new members who pay fees to join the business.  The only profit for investors comes from bringing more people into the scheme.  In other words, the only way you can make a profit is by becoming a scammer yourself.  Like the chain letter, pyramid schemes are doomed to failure because eventually you run out of people to sustain the growth of the pyramid.

The scam does have some resemblance to how legitimate multi-level marketing companies such as Mary Kay Cosmetics and Amway operate; however, a key difference is that these companies actually sell products.  Pyramid schemes do not. In a pyramid scheme the source of profits is based primarily on the recruiting of new members or salespeople.

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A little common sense can go a long way in avoiding pyramid schemes.  The simple question to ask yourself is whether or not the company actually sells products and makes substantial profits through product sales or through the recruiting of new members.  If it is through recruitment, it is most likely a pyramid scheme. 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 the case of LuLaRoe, it received an F rating from the Better Business Bureau.   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.  http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0065-multilevel-marketing

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