Scam of the Day

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Scam of the day – January 18, 2019 – Another Gift Card Scam

Gift cards form the basis of many scams, most prominently when scammers posing as government officials such as IRS employees demand payment of phony income taxes through gift cards.  However, lost in the many scam uses of gift cards is the value of gift cards as legitimate gifts.  During the recently passed holiday season, many people received gift cards as gifts.  Scammers are taking advantage of the proliferation of gift cards by setting up legitimate appearing, but phony websites that purport to allow you to insert the information about your gift card in order to find out the amount of the present balance on your gift card.  Unfortunately, these are scams and anyone entering the information will soon find that their gift cards are quickly emptied of value by scammers who use the gift card numbers to make purchases charged to their victims’ gift cards.  This problem is compounded by the fact that many scammers are able to manipulate the algorithms used by Google and other search engines to make their phony gift card registry websites appear high on a search engine search.

TIPS

The best place to find the amount of the remaining balance on any gift card you may have is the website of the retailer issuing the gift card.  You can generally find the domain name of the website on the back of the gift card.  If the website is not indicated on the back of the card, go to the website of the company that issued the gift card.  If the particular retailer who issued the gift card enables you to register the gift card with the retailer you should do so both for your own convenience and also to be able to more efficiently report any problems that occur.

When buying a gift card, only purchase cards from behind the customer service desk and if the card is preloaded, always ask for the card to be scanned to show that it is still fully valued.  Some retailers, in an effort to reduce gift card fraud, will also put a PIN on the gift card so that if the card is used online, the user must have access to the PIN which is generally covered and must have the covering material scratched off in order to be visible.  Unfortunately, many purchasers of gift cards are not aware of this so they don’t even notice that the PIN on the card that they are purchasing has already had the covering material scratched off by the scammer who has recorded the PIN.

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 – January 17, 2019 – FTC Refunding Checks to Victims of Debt Relief Scam

Being in debt is a difficult situation faced by many people. Unfortunately, it can be made much worse when debtors are targeted by unscrupulous scammers posing as debt relief specialists who make matters worse. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought legal action against United Debt Counselors, LLC, a company which exaggerated the money people could save by using their services and also charged illegal upfront fees in violation of federal rules that prohibit debt settlement companies from charging a fee until the company actually renegotiates, reduces or alters the terms of the consumer’s debt.  As a part of its settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), United Debt Counselors, LLC paid money to the FTC which is returning the funds to victims of the scam.  For more information about the refund and how to claim your refund if you were among the victims of this particular scammer, go to the tab marked FTC scam refunds in the middle of the first page of www.scamicide.com.

TIPS

There are many debt relief companies that may be able to help people with debt problems, however, credit counseling services may be a better and more economical choice for many people.  While there are legitimate debt relief companies, there also are many scammers who will take your money and provide little, if anything, for your payment.  It is important to remember that it is illegal for a debt relief company to charge you a fee prior to settling your debts so any company that requires you to pay such a fee is  scammer and should be avoided.

If you are considering using a debt relief company, you should check with your state’s Attorney General and your state’s consumer protection agency to see if there are any consumer complaints against them.  Finally, for detailed information about alternatives to consider if you are having debt problems, go to the FTC’s website at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0153-choosing-credit-counselor

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 – January 15, 2019 – Amazon Phishing Scam

Shopping on Amazon is extremely popular both with consumers and scammers seeking to exploit Amazon’s popularity. I have warned you many times over the years about scammers who send various types of phishing emails which purport to be from Amazon attempting to lure you into either clicking on links which can download malware, such as ransomware or keystroke logging malware or providing personal information that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft.

This latest Amazon phishing scam was forwarded to me by a Scamicide subscriber. It starts with an email that appears to come from Amazon informing you that there is a problem with your account and that it has been used by criminals to purchase gift cards You are then directed to an Amazon log-in page where you are instructed to verify your information and enter your user name and password. The log-in page looks legitimate, but it is not. It is a scam and if you provide this information, you will quickly find that your account will be used by the cybercriminals to make fraudulent purchases charged to your account.

Here is a copy of the phishing email presently circulating.

“Amazon Order Confirmation
Hello ,
Your Amazon account was used to buy a 250$ Gift Card on a computer or device that had not been previously associated with that Amazon account on Mon, 24 Dec 2018 03:37:52

If you did not make these Purchase or you believe an unauthorized person has accessed your account, you should Verify Your Information as soon as possible account page at :

Cancel The Order
Details
Order #231-0456370-0984673
Email delivery: Mon, 24 Dec 2018 03:37:52

Your Orders

Send gift card(s) to: ********@hotmail.com
Total Before Tax: $250.00
Order Total: $250.00
Sincerely,

We hope to see you again soon.
Amazon.com”

TIPS

There are a number of indications that phishing emails are not legitimate emails from Amazon, but instead is a phishing email. Legitimate emails from Amazon would  be directed to you by name rather than being addressed to “Dear Customer” or as is the case with this email “hello.” It also is sent from an address that has no relation to Amazon, but is most likely sent by a hijacked computer made a part of a botnet to send out these types of phishing emails. The grammar and spelling in phishing emails is often faulty or stilted which is often an indication that the particular phishing email was sent by someone whose primary language is not English. The placement of the “$” after the digits “250” is an indication that this is a scam.  This particular email came with an Amazon logo, but the logo is easy to counterfeit.

As with all phishing emails, two things can happen if you click on the links provided.  Either you will be sent to a legitimate looking, but phony webpage where you will be prompted to input personal information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft or, even worse, merely by clicking on the link, you may download keystroke logging malware that will steal all of your personal information from your computer or smartphone and use it to make you a victim of identity theft. However, some scammers manage to send emails directed specifically to you by name and appear to be sent from Amazon so you can never be too careful. Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.

If you receive and email like this and think it may possibly be legitimate, merely call the customer service number for Amazon where you can confirm that it is a 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 – January 14, 2019 – Romance Scammer Arrested in Australia

Romance scams are one of the most common of scams and I have written about them here at Scamicide.com for seven years. Romance scams prey upon vulnerable people looking for some love and companionship in their lives. Recently Australian law enforcement officials arrested a scammer posing as an American soldier, charging him with scamming a 34 year old Brisbane, Australian woman out of $305,000 through an online romance scam. The accused scammer met his victim through social media and convinced her that he was in love with her and soon he was asking her for money to help him with a variety of emergencies, which is typical of this type of scam. What is not typical is that the scammer, who is actually an Australian from Brisbane himself and not an American soldier actually went to her home to get more money from her. Generally in romance scams, they are continually perpetrated from long distances without ever physically meeting.

Most of these online dating and romance scams involve some variation of the person you meet through an online dating site quickly falling in love with you and then, under a wide variety of pretenses, asking for money.   According to recent FBI statistics, this scam is getting worse with twice as many people becoming victims of romance scams in 2016 compared to 2014 at a cost of almost 230 million dollars. Australian and New Zealand figures indicate that victims of this scam in those countries lose an average of approximately $84,000 in each incident.  In addition, it is highly likely that the number of actual victims of this type of scam is understated because many victims fail to report that they have been swindled due to embarrassment.

TIPS

There are various red flags to help you identify romance scams.  I describe many of them in detail in my book “The Truth About Avoiding Scams.” The most important thing to remember is to always be skeptical of anyone who falls in love with you quickly online without ever meeting you and early into the relationship who then asks you to wire money to assist them with a wide range of phony emergencies.

Here are a few other things to look for to help identify a romance scam.  Often their profile picture is stolen from a modeling website on the Internet.  If the picture looks too professional and the person looks too much like a model, you should be wary.  Particular phrases, such as “Remember the distance or color does not matter, but love matters a lot in life” is a phrase that turns up in many romance scam emails.  Also be on the lookout for bad spelling and grammar as many of the romance scammers claim to be Americans, but are actually foreigners lying about where they are and who they are.  Of course you should be particularly concerned if someone falls in love with you almost immediately.  Often they will ask you to use a webcam, but will not use one themselves.  This is another red flag.  One thing you may want to do is ask them to take a picture of themselves holding up a sign with their name on it.  In addition, ask for a number of pictures because generally when the scammers are stealing pictures of models from websites, they do not have many photographs. Ask for the picture to be at a particular place that you designate to further test them.

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 – January 13, 2019 – Government Shutdown Affects Reporting and Responding to Identity Theft

The partial government shutdown keeps having more and more unexpected repercussions. One of the unexpected issues that has arisen is that the Federal Trade Commission’s website for reporting identity theft which also provides guidance in responding to becoming a victim of identity theft has shut down. Here at Scamicide.com we have linked to the FTC’s website www.identitytheft.gov due to the tremendously helpful information it provides to anyone who has become a victim of identity theft. Promptly responding to becoming a victim of identity theft is important in order to minimize the damage and reclaim your life. Unfortunately, anyone going to www.identitytheft.gov now while the government shutdown continues will be greeted by an announcement that the website is not available during the shutdown. This is most unfortunate as there are many steps that people need to take in a timely fashion if they have become a victim of identity theft.

On a more macro and even dangerous level, the partial government shutdown has caused the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which protects the country from attacks against our critical federal infrastructure to furlough 43% of its employees putting the country in a more vulnerable position to respond to a foreign cyberattack.

TIPS

Unfortunately, the steps you need to take depend on how the identity theft occurred. Describing the things you need to do if you become a victim of identity theft is too voluminous to be able to cover in a Scam of the day. It would take a book to do so. Fortunately, there is a book that can guide you if you have become a victim of identity theft or even if you have not been a victim of identity theft, this book can help guide you through the steps to take to protect yourself as best you can from becoming a victim of identity theft. That book is my book “Identity Theft Alert.” Last year Identity Theft Alert was featured in an article about the Seven best Cybersecurity books where it sits at number one. A link to the article can be found below. If you are so inclined, you can vote in favor of it by clicking on the arrow at the bottom of the review. Identity Theft Alert remains a tremendous resource for people seeking to find easy steps to help protect themselves from identity theft. If you are interested in purchasing Identity Theft Alert through Amazon, you can click on the picture of the book at the bottom of the first page of Scammicide.com. Hopefully, the shutdown will end soon and www.identitytheft.gov will be up and running again.

Best Books: 7 Books To Read To Learn About Cyber Security

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Scam of the day – January 12, 2019 – Lenny to the Rescue

So many scams start with a phone call, whether it is to sell you phony tech support that you don’t need, trick you into contributing to a phony charity or any other of the myriad of scams that are perpetrated over the phone including many that are illegal automated robocalls. There are a number of defenses you can use to protect yourself from phone scams, but an intriguing new one is Lenny. Lenny is a chatbot which is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence to conduct a conversation with the person calling you. Chatbots simulate the responses of a real person in a phone call and while chatbots have been used as a tool of scammers, Lenny is a chatbot that is a weapon against scammers once Lenny is installed on your phone although installing Lenny is probably more complicated than it is worth.

There are a lot of YouTube videos that provide the audio of phone calls in which Lenny, whose voice is that of an elderly man, uses up the valuable time of the scammer on the other end of the line who gets increasingly frustrated with Lenny. Here is a link to such a phone call.

Scammers generally have been found to stay on the line for around seven minutes talking to Lenny before they give up and hang up the phone.

TIPS

Automated robocalls have proven to be the source of many scams. Fortunately, there are a number of options for preventing robocalls including a number of apps that for free or a small fee will 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.

http://www.samsung.com/levant/apps/smart-call/

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.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.dialer&hl=en

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

https://www.att.com/features/security-apps.html?partner=LinkShare&siteId=TnL5HPStwNw-yrUS1uDw9WGvN._xt67yew&source=ECay0000000CEL00O

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

https://www.verizonwireless.com/solutions-and-services/caller-name-id/

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

http://explore.t-mobile.com/callprotection

Here is the link for YouMail

https://www.youmail.com/home/apps

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

https://www.nomorobo.com/

https://www.truecaller.com/

https://hiya.com/

https://www.robokiller.com/

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.youmail.android.vvm&hl=en_US

Finally, in regard to non-robocalls, a good tactic is to ignore any calls that come from numbers you do not recognize.  If they are legitimate calls, they will leave a message and you can call them back. In any event, you should never give personal information including credit card or other financial information to anyone who calls you on the phone unless you have absolutely confirmed that the call is legitimate. Through spoofing, a scammer can make his or her call appear to be coming from a legitimate source.

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 – January 11, 2019 – Publishers Clearing House Scams

Publishers Clearing House, the sponsor of some of the most popular legitimate lotteries in the country no longer limits its contests to one or two a year, but has numerous lotteries each month. Recently, I was contacted by a regular Scamicide reader who told me about being contacted by phone by scammers posing as Publishers Clearing House employees. This is not an isolated occurrence. Recently there has been an increase in reports of scammers calling people on the telephone and telling them that they have won one of the Publishers Clearing House lotteries, but that they have to pay fees or taxes before being able to claim their prize.

It is hard to win any lottery. It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered and yet scam artists have found that it is extremely lucrative to scam people by convincing them that they have won various lotteries. With so many people entered into the Publishers Clearing House lotteries, it is easier for scammers to convince people that they have won.

Most lottery scams involve the victim being told that they need to pay taxes or administrative fees directly to the lottery sponsor; however no legitimate lottery requires you to do so.  As with many effective scams, the pitch of the scammer seems legitimate. Income taxes are due on lottery winnings, but with legitimate lotteries they are either deducted from the lottery winnings before you receive your prize or you are responsible for paying the taxes directly to the IRS. No legitimate lottery collects taxes on behalf of the IRS from lottery winners.  Other times, the scammer tell the “winners” that in order to collect their prizes, they need to pay administrative fees. Often, the victims are told to send the fees back to the scammer by prepaid gift cards or Green Dot MoneyPak cards. Prepaid cards are a favorite of scammers because they are the equivalent of sending cash. They are impossible to stop or trace. Again, no legitimate lottery requires you to pay administrative fees in order to claim your prize.

TIPS
Fortunately, there is an easy way to know, when you are contacted by Publishers Clearing House by phone, email or text message informing you that you have won one of its major multi-million dollar prizes, whether you have been contacted by the real Publishers Clearing House. Publishers Clearing House only contacts major prize winners in person or by regular mail. They do not contact winners by phone, email or text message so if you do receive a notification of your winning one of their major multi-million dollar prizes by those means of communication you know it is a scam.   In addition, no winners of the Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes are ever required to make a payment of any kind to claim their prize.  As for other lotteries, remember, you can’t win a lottery you haven’t entered and no legitimate lottery asks you to pay them administrative fees or taxes.

Even if the Caller ID on your phone indicates the call is actually from Publishers Clearing House, it is very easy for a scammer to use a technique called “spoofing” to make it appear that the call is coming from Publishers Clearing House rather than the scammer who is really making the call. Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.

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Scam of the day – January 10, 2019 – Important Announcement & Peer to Peer Payment Scams

Before I get into today’s Scam of the day, I have an important announcement about Scamicide.com. We are making some major changes to the Scamicide website both behind the scenes and in the appearance and serviceability of Scamicide.com. I am very excited about these changes which include more convenient access to the thousands of Scams of the day that make up the archives of Scamicide.com. I think you will find these changes make Scamicide even more helpful. However with any such changes come the possibility of momentary disruptions as the behind the scenes changes are made. Don’t be concerned if there is a problem of short duration regarding your gaining access to Scamicide. Myself and all of the people behind the scenes will be working hard to make the transition as smooth as possible and hope to maintain subscribers with uninterrupted service. We will do our best and I hope you like the new Scamicide.com.

Now for today’s Scam of the day.

Peer to Peer Payment Payment Services (P2P) such as Zelle, Venmo, ApplePay PayPal, Square Cash and PopMoney are popular ways to quickly and conveniently send money electronically from your credit card or bank account. They also are easy ways to be scammed and unlike with scams targeting your credit cards directly, you may not have as much protection under the law to get your money back if you do get scammed. Zelle which originated in 2017 is operated by a consortium of banks and appears on your mobile banking app. Sending money through Zelle only requires you to enter the recipient’s phone number or email address. In addition to scammers luring their victims to pay for worthless items through P2P services, scammers have also been sending phishing emails and text messages in which they lure their victims into providing their Zelle usernames, passwords and PINs to take over their victims’ bank accounts through their Zelle accounts.

TIPS

Before signing up for any P2P service, you should familiarize yourself with their fraud protection rules. In the fine print of many P2P services, you may find that you have little, if any, protection if you use the account to purchase something that ends up to be a scam. While PayPal offers significant protection from fraudulent transactions, Zelle and Venmo, for example do not offer such protection, which is why these services should never be used for commercial transactions, but only to transfer small amounts of money to people you know. In order to protect your account from being hacked and being taken over by a scammer who could access your credit card or bank account, you should use a PIN or other dual factor authentication whenever your particular service provides for it. In addition if your account is tied to a credit card, you should be able to get the amount fraudulently taken refunded from your credit card company in accordance with federal law and if it is tied to a bank account, you should be able to get the money refunded if you report it immediately pursuant to the Electronic Transfer Act.

To avoid having your Zelle account and other accounts from being taken over by hackers, never provide your username, password or PIN in response to any email, text message or phone call unless you have absolutely confirmed that the request for this information is legitimate, which it never is. You can confirm this by contacting your bank or other company by calling them at a telephone number you know is accurate. Even if you get a call that appears to come from your bank or other company with which you do business, your Caller ID can be tricked by spoofing to make the call appear legitimate when it is not.

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 – January 9, 2019 – Securing Your New Internet of Things Devices

I have been warning you about dangers in the rapidly expanding Internet of things for more than five years.  The Internet of Things is made up of a broad range of devices connected to the Internet including home thermostats, security systems, medical devices, refrigerators, televisions, cars and toys. Many people have probably received smart televisions and other Internet of Things devices during the recently passed holiday season.

This past summer the FBI issued a new warning to consumers about the dangers of posed by hacking of various devices that makeup the Internet of Things.

Here is a link to the FBI warning. https://www.ic3.gov/media/2018/180802.aspx

Cybercriminals will hack into your devices that are a part of the Internet of Things to enable them to enlist your devices as a part of a botnet by which they can distribute malware while maintaining their anonymity. However, they also can hack into your Internet of Thing devices to access your home computers to steal information for purposes of identity theft or to implant malware on your home computers.

TIPS

Many of the devices that make up the Internet of Things come with preset passwords that can easily be discovered by hackers.  Change your password as soon as you set up the product.  Also, set up a guest network on your router exclusively for your Internet of Things devices.  Configure network firewalls to block traffic from unauthorized IP addresses and disable port forwarding.  Make sure that you install the latest security patches as soon as they become available.  Use encryption software for the transmission of data and find out where data is stored and what steps are taken to secure the information.  Also, limit the amount of information you provide when setting up the accounts for smart toys.  The less information out there, the less the risk of identity theft. Most devices allow you to select options that increase your security and privacy.  Finally make sure your router is secure and use its whitelisting capabilities which will prevent your device from connecting to malicious networks.

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.”

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