Scam of the Day

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Scam of the day – April 26, 2019 – Cryptocurrency Thief Sentenced

Recently in California, Joel Ortiz was sentenced to ten years in prison for hacking into cell phones and stealing more than 7.5 million dollars worth of cryptocurrencies from at least forty victims.   Ortiz was able to accomplish these crimes through SIM swapping which has become an increasing danger.  Ortiz was one of the first people in the country to be convicted of crimes related to SIM swapping.  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 and managing cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin 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  or cryptocurrency transactions as part of dual factor authentication and thereby providing the identity thief with the opportunity to empty their victims’ bank accounts  or cryptocurrency wallets and cause other financial havoc.

Porting is the name for the crime where someone convinces your phone carrier to transfer your SIM card to a phone controlled by the criminal. To prevent someone from stealing access to your phone through porting, you should have a PIN added to your  cell phone account so that no one can call your cell phone provider posing as you and ask to have your SIM card transferred.  Recently, Sydney Australia police charged a man with involvement in porting and a SIM swapping conspiracy by which the criminals took over the cell phone accounts of seventy people and managed to gain access to their victims’ bank accounts.   They then used the accounts to purchase more than $100,000 in goods.  According to Cybercrime Squad commander, detective superintendent Matt Craft this type of crime cost Australians at least ten million dollars in the last year.

TIPS
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.

The wireless carrier industry has got to do a better job of securing SIM cards. The best thing you can do to  protect your SIM card from being swapped is to set up a PIN or password to be used for access to your mobile service provider account.  Sprint and Verizon use PINs while T-Mobile and A T and T will let you set up a password.  This will help prevent someone from calling your carrier and posing as you convince them to swap your SIM card to the criminal’s phone.

In order to use Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies you need to first set up a wallet on your computer or cell phone which will contain information for you to use to access your coins that are in the blockchain. Cryptocurrencies, just as everything else tied to computers and cell phones carry inherent vulnerabilities.  The best way to avoid problems is to take particular care in choosing where you store your Bitcoins online.  Many Bitcoin exchanges have had security breaches and will always be a prime target for hackers.  In addition to using a strong password you should also use dual factor authentication to provide greater security, encrypt your wallet and backup your entire wallet.   Securing your SIM card with a PIN  at your cell phone carrier in order to protect it from being swapped and used by a criminal to pierce your dual factor authentication is also essential.   Finally, make sure that your cryptocurrency software is updated with the latest security patches as soon as they become available.

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Scam of the day – April 25, 2019 – New Chip Card Scam

The technology behind the chip credit card was intended to eliminate much of the credit card and debt card fraud that was formerly easy to accomplish with the older magnetic strip credit and debit cards which contained all of the account information on the magnetic strip on the back of the card which could be surreptitiously read through a device called a skimmer which is easily installed on ATMs and gas pumps.  In addition, hacking into credit card processing systems could also enable a hacker to obtain the card number for fraudulent use.  To a great extent these problems have been eliminated through the use of the chip cards which generate a new number each time the card is used.  Thus a skimmer would be of no use because it would only capture a number used to process a single transaction that could not be used again.  Online credit and debit card purchases still are susceptible to fraud because the chip cannot be used in those transactions.

However, while the chip card has reduced credit card fraud, enterprising scammers have recently come up with a way to manipulate your credit card or debit card for fraudulent purchases.  The ingenious tactic the scammers use was detailed in a Secret Service warning to financial institutions around the country.  Scammers intercept mail or delivery service deliveries of debit cards being sent in large numbers to companies who provide them to their employees.  The scammers then remove the chip and then glue on an old or otherwise invalid chip on the card and repackage it for delivery.  The unsuspecting company then receives the cards and activates them without being aware of the tampering that has occurred.  Once the card has been activated, the scammer uses the card to purchase goods which it then sells to obtain cash while the legitimate card holder learns that the card is inoperable when he or she tries to use the card with the phony chip.

TIPS

While to date, reports of this scam have been limited to criminals intercepting large numbers of cards going to corporations and other large organizations, it can be expected that this scam will work its way down to ordinary criminals exploiting individual card holders because it does not require much  skill and technology to perform this scam.  In addition, criminals taking advantage of the Informed Delivery Service of the U.S. Postal Service can learn ahead of time if you are going to receive a new credit card and be waiting to grab the card and make the switch.  Here is a link to the Scam of the day for March 30, 2019 in which I described the Informed Delivery Service and how you can protect yourself from being a victim of scammers using this service.  https://scamicide.com/2019/03/29/scam-of-the-day-march-30-2019-identity-theft-tied-to-usps-informed-delivery-service/

Whenever you get a new chip debit card or credit card in the mail, look for signs of tampering such as burn damage around the chip where heat is used to install the new phony chip.   Also look on the card for possible bubbling on the card which can be an indication of tampering through the heating of the card.  Finally,  look for a small hole in the plastic near the chip where the original chip may have been pried off of the card.

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Scam of the day – April 24, 2019 – Tax Refund Text Message Scam

Scams are found everywhere and readers of Scamicide can be found in many countries throughout the world which is why I write about scams wherever they may occur.  The income tax filing deadline of April 15th just recently passed, but the scams will not end as scammers will be taking advantage of late filers anticipating their income tax refunds.   Americans should be wary of a scam presently happening in Britain where people are receiving text messages that appear to come from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) the equivalent of the American IRS.  These messages generally lure people into clicking on a link that takes the targeted victim of the scam to a website that appears legitimate and asks for personal information allegedly to confirm the legitimacy of the person filing for the refund.  The form also asks for the targeted victim’s bank account number purportedly to have an account to which to wire the tax refund.  Unfortunately, people clicking on the link and providing their information either end up downloading malware such as ransomware on to their cell phone or providing personal information used to make the person a victim of identity theft including theft from their bank account.

TIPS

As I always say, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”  You can never be sure whenever you are contacted by a text message  or email who is actually contacting you and you should never click on a link contained in a text message or email or provide personal information unless you have absolutely confirmed that the text message or email is legitimate.  In the United Kingdom, the HMRC does not contact people by text message or email and neither does the IRS in the United States so if you get a text message or email that appears to come from the HMRC or the IRS, you can be sure it is a scam.  While this scam has not yet been reported in the United States, it is quite probable that it will be appearing soon.  Forewarned is forearmed.

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Scam of the day – April 23, 2019 – Grandparent Scam Getting Worse

According to a new report recently released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports of the grandparent scam rose to almost 20,000 during a fifteen month period from late 2017 through 2018 at a cost of approximately 42 million dollars which is double the amount lost to this scam in the previous year.   The average loss to victims of this scam was $9,000 which is much higher than  the amount lost by victims of many other types of fraud.

Many of you are familiar with the grandparent scam where a grandparent receives a telephone call from someone purporting to be their grandchild who has gotten into some trouble, either a traffic accident, legal trouble or medical  problems in a far away place.  The caller pleads for the grandparent to wire some money immediately to help alleviate the problem.  However the caller also begs the grandparent not to tell mom and dad.  One would think that no one would be gullible enough to fall for this scam, but don’t be so hard on the victims of this scam.  Scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists, have a knowledge of psychology of which Freud would have been envious and are able to use that knowledge to persuade their victims to send money right away.   During the recent college Spring Break an 86 year old Arizona woman fell victim to the grandparent scam after being convinced to send four separate cash payments by Federal Express totaling more than $30,000 to a scammer posing as her granddaughter.  It wasn’t until the scammer called her  again and referred to her as “Grandma” that the victim realized she had been scammed since her granddaughter did not call her “Grandma.”

TIPS
Sometimes the scammers do not know the name of their victim’s grandchildren, but often they do.  Sometimes they get this information from perusing obituaries which may name grandchildren by name so merely because the correct name is used in the call is no reason to believe the call.  Don’t respond immediately to such a call without calling the real grandchild on his or her cell phone or call the parents and confirm the whereabouts of the grandchild.  If a medical problem is the ruse used, you can call the real hospital.  If legal problems are the ruse, you can call the real police.  You can also test the caller with a question that could be answered only by the real grandchild, but make sure that it really is a question that  only the real grandchild could answer and not just anyone who might read the real grandchild’ s Facebook page or other social media.  Also social media such as Facebook is perused by scammers looking for information they can harvest to make their scams more convincing.  A grandchild’s apparent innocuous photo on social media that refers to “nana” can give information to a scammer to exploit.

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.  Providing gift card information over the phone also is a quick way to lose money that you can never get back.  Generally anytime someone asks for a payment by way of a gift card it is a scam.  Also,  students traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/.  This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.

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Scam of the day – April 22, 2019 – Notre Dame Fire Charity Scams

Today’s Scam of the day is one that I have had to write about a number of times in the years that I have been writing Scamicide.com, but unfortunately, it is still necessary to warn people repeatedly about this type of scam.  Disasters, whether they are natural disasters such as hurricanes or wild fires or man made disasters such as mass shootings bring out the best in people who want to donate to charities to help the victims. Unfortunately these disasters such as last week’s devastating fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris also bring out the worst in scammers who are quick to take advantage of the generosity of people by contacting them posing as charities, but instead of collecting funds to help disaster victims or help in rebuilding efforts as in Paris, these scam artists steal the money for themselves under false pretenses. Charities are not subject to the federal Do Not Call List so even if you are signed up for the federal Do Not Call List, legitimate charities are able to contact you. The problem is that whenever you are contacted on the phone, you can never be sure as to who is really calling you so you may be contacted either by a fake charity or a scammer posing as a legitimate charity. Using a technique called spoofing, the scammers can manipulate your Caller ID to make it appear that the call is coming from a legitimate charity when it is not. Similarly, when you are solicited for a charitable contribution by email or text message you cannot be sure as to whether the person contacting you is legitimate or not.

TIPS

Never provide credit card information over the phone to anyone whom you have not called or in response to an email or text message. Before you give to any charity, you may wish to check out the charity with www.charitynavigator.org where you can learn whether or not the charity itself is a scam. You can also see how much of the money that the charity collects actually goes toward its charitable purposes and how much it uses for fund raising and administrative costs.

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Scam of the day – April 21, 2019 – Easter and Passover Scams

Easter is today and Passover, which goes on for a week, began two days ago.  While these holidays are a happy time for people celebrating these holidays, they also are another opportunity for scammers.  A common holiday scam involves phony electronic greeting cards which download malware.  Emails are circulating in which you are told to click on a link in the email to view an E card purportedly being sent to you by a friend. The truth is that there is no E card and if you click on the link you will download malware that enables an identity thief to steal all of the personal information from your computer and make you a victim of identity theft or download malware such as ransomware that will lock your computer, encrypt all of your data and threaten to destroy your data if you do not pay a ransom.

TIPS

A legitimate electronic greeting card will always tell you exactly from whom it was sent.  Phony electronic greeting cards do not name the person who sent you the card.  The links in phony emails also generally do not appear to be connected to a legitimate E card company.  The safest route to follow if you get such an email is to ignore it if it does not tell you from whom the card is being sent, but even if it does give a first name, you should still be skeptical.  Contact the person to confirm that they indeed sent you an E card before clicking on the link to take you to the card. The best rule to follow is never to click on any link in any email unless you have confirmed that it is legitimate.

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Scam of the day – April 20, 2019 – Facebook Phony Grant Scam

It is not surprising that Facebook has been a favorite medium for scammers.  Its very popularity and the fact that on Facebook you are communicating with your friends is reason enough for scammers to use Facebook as a platform for scams.  There has been a resurgence of a Facebook related scam that  starts with a private message  that appears to come from one of your friends telling you that he or she just received a large government grant and that it was easy to do. One recent victim of this scam was Dottie Morales of Maryland.  She responded to a private Facebook message from someone who had cloned the Facebook page of a friend of Dottie’s and, posing as the friend, sent Dottie a private message urging Dottie to apply for this easy money grant.  Dottie did and was first told that she had to pay a $1,500 advanced processing fee which she promptly did.  Soon thereafter she was told that she had to pay more because there was an issue with Customs although why Customs would be involved is not clear. Then she was told there was a problem with the Federal Express Truck delivering the check, then she had to pay another fee to the FBI or the grant would be held up.  Under various pretenses she was told time after time to pay more money to expedite the grant that never came and Dottie complied.  Ultimately she lost more than $30,000.

TIPS

Facebook accounts and email accounts are relatively easy for a skilled cybercriminal to hack so whenever you receive an email or message urging you to click on a link, provide personal information or, as in this scam, send money, you should always be skeptical and confirm that the communication is legitimate before responding. You should be particularly skeptical of  any request to wire money or provide a cash card number because once funds have been transferred in this fashion, they are impossible to retrieve.

The federal government does not charge any fee to apply for a grant. Additionally, it is important to remember that government grants are not given for personal purposes, but only for public projects. People looking for legitimate information about grants, loans and other financial aid information for higher education can go to the federal government’s website www.StudentAid.ed.gov.   Information about federal loans for housing, disaster relief, education and veterans benefits can be found at the federal government’s website www.GovLoans.gov.  Finally For information about  a range of other federal benefits for which you may be eligible, you can go the federal government’s website www.Benefits.gov.

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Scam of the day – April 18, 2019 – New Variation on Phony Debt Collection Scam

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. I have written many times in the past about scammers who use deceptive and abusive collections practices in attempting to collect non-existent debts.  These scammers violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by making threatening and verbally abusive phone calls, contacting third parties about the  phony debts, threatening legal action and attempting to collect debts that the defendants knew were not owed.  Now in a new variation of this scam being reported by the Better Business Bureau, the phony debt collector who calls you is much more conciliatory.  He or she tells you that you owe a debt that is about to go to court, but that you can avoid court by arranging with them to pay the debt in reasonable installments.  Again, however, there is no debt owed and the scammer calling you knows that fact.

TIPS

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 they are legitimate or not, so your 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. You also can check your credit report at each of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to see if any debts which you are not aware of appear on your credit reports.  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.

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Scam of the day – April 17, 2019 – Nigerian Email Revisited

Today’s Scam of the day is another version of the Nigerian email scam that continues to plague the online community. Although it may seem that the Nigerian email scam began in the era of the Internet, the basis of the scam actually goes back to 1588 when it was known as the Spanish Prisoner Scam.  In those days, a letter was sent to the victim purportedly from someone on behalf of a wealthy aristocrat who was imprisoned in Spain under a false name.  The identity of the nobleman was not revealed for security reasons, but the victim was asked to provide money to obtain the release of the aristocrat, who, it was promised, would reward the money-contributing scam victim with a vast reward that included, in some circumstances, the Spanish prisoner’s beautiful daughter in marriage.

In the various versions of this scam circulating on the Internet today, you are promised great sums of money if you assist a Nigerian or someone elsewhere in his effort to transfer money out of his country.  Variations include the movement of embezzled funds by corrupt officials, a dying gentleman who wants to make charitable gifts or a minor bank official trying to move the money of deceased foreigners out of his bank without the government taking it.  The example below of the email I received involves a transfer for charitable purposes. In all the variations of this scam, although you are told initially that you do not need to contribute anything financially to the endeavor, you soon learn that it is necessary for you to contribute continuing large amounts of money for various reasons, such as fees, bribes, insurance or taxes before you can get anything.  Of course, the victim ends up contributing money to the scammer, but never receives anything in return.  This particular version of the scam email contains numerous indications that it is a scam.  It is not addressed to you by name; there is no United Nations Anti-Crime Commission; the grammar is flawed and the idea that there would be a random multi-million dollar lottery for scam victims is ludicrous.  Unfortunately, some people allow their greed to overcome their good sense and become victims of this scam.

Here is a copy of the email presently being circulated:

Good Day!
We are delegated from the International Monetary Fund in conjunction with the help of organization of African Unity (OAU) United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) and FBI to pay 10 victims of scam US$5.8 Million each.During the course of our investigation, we have been able to recover so much money from these scam artists.The United Nations Anti-Crime Commission and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have ordered the money recovered from the Scammers to be shared among 10 Lucky people around  the World for compensation.This  Email/Letter is been directed to you because your email address was found in one of the Scam Artists file and computer hard-disk during our investigation, maybe you have been scammed or not, you are therefore being compensated with the sum  of $5.800,000.00 USD (Five Million Eight Hundred Thousand United State Dollars).Re-confirm your details as stated bellow to enable us proceed with the next procedure, we anticipate your urgent response.
1.Full Name:……………………………………………..
2.Address:……………………………………………….
3.Nationality:……………………………………………
4.Age:……..Date of Birth:……………………………….
5.Occupation:…………………………………………….
6.Phone:……………Mobile:………….:……………….
7.State of Origin:………………….Country:……………..
8. Copy of your Identity Card
All corresponded should be direct to below this email address (dreric.ben@gmail.com).
Yours Sincerely,
Dr.Eric Ben
IMF Head of Operation
BENIN REPUBLIC (Cotonou)
TELEPHONE :+22991330468

TIPS

This is a simple scam to avoid.  It preys upon people whose greed overcomes their good sense.  If you receive such an email, the first thing you should ask yourself is how does this possibly relate to you and why would you be singled out to be so lucky to be asked to participate in this arrangement.  Since there is no good answer to either question, you should merely hit delete and be happy that you avoided a scam.  As with many such scams, which originate outside of the United States, the punctuation and grammar are often not good. Often the emails are sent from an email address that has no relation to the purported sender which is an indication that the email is being sent through a botnet of hacked computers. In addition, it is important to note that nowhere in this particular version of the scam email is your name mentioned. The scam email is obviously being sent out as a mass mailing.

Many people wonder why cybercriminals and scammers send out such ridiculously obvious scam letters that anyone with an ounce of sense would recognize as a scam, but that may be intentional on the part of the scammer because if someone responds to such an email, they are more likely to fall prey to the scam without much effort by the scammers.

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