Scam of the Day

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Scam of the day – September 22, 2023 – Ace Rewards Scams

Ace Hardware is a large, popular hardware store and like many stores has a loyalty program called Ace Rewards.  Ace recently sent out a warning to its Ace Rewards members that scammers, posing as Ace Hardware are sending emails to Ace Reward members offering a prize for completing a survey.  In order to receive your prize, you are required to pay a small fee to cover shipping and handling.  The scammers are also sending emails in which they direct the targeted victim to a fake website that appears to be that of Ace Hardware.  Unfortunately, if you take the survey and provide your credit card or debit card to pay for the shipping and handling of your prize, the only thing you will receive will be excessive charges on your credit or debit card.  If you to the phony website, you may end up unwittingly downloading malware or providing personal information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft.


Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  The email address from which the phony email is sent may look legitimate, but the easy way to avoid the problem is to merely go to the actual website of Ace Hardware which is  Any promotion or sale will always be available on Ace’s website.

It is always better not to click on a link in an email to go to a website, but rather type in the URL that you know is legitimate.  However, you may want to go the extra step and actually do a search to determine who owns the website you are on.  There are a number of ways of doing this.  One of the easiest is to go to ICANN and enter the domain name and click on “lookup.”  This will enable you to find out who actually owns the website.  So for instance, if you think you are going to the Ace Hardware website and the website you are on is owned by someone in Nigeria, you can be pretty confident it is a scam.  Here is the link to ICANN

Also, Ace Hardware, like most legitimate companies will never ask for payment information or passwords as a part of any survey.

Finally, as always, you should never use your debit card when buying anything online (or at a brick and mortar store as well) because federal laws protecting you from liability for fraudulent purposes are far stronger for credit card purchases than debit card purchases.

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Scam of the day – September 21, 2023 – Amazon Text Message Scam

Recently there has been an increase in the number of people receiving phony text messages that purport to be sent from Amazon telling you that your account has been hacked.  These phony text messages, called “smishing” will either attempt to lure you into providing personal information that will be used to make you a victim or identity theft or try to persuade you to click on a link that will download malware.

A famous bank robber was once asked why he robbed banks to which he responded, “because that is where the money is” which is why it is not surprising that scammers have used Amazon as the basis for a wide variety of scams due to so many people buying products through Amazon.

You can provide a phone number for Amazon to text you alerts and notifications regarding your account so how can you tell if a text message is legitimate?  The real Amazon will never ask for your password or personal information in a text message.


If you have a question about your Amazon account, you can either contact them through their website at or call them at 1 (888) 280-4331.  Don’t trust any text message that purports to be from Amazon.  If you think it might be legitimate, merely call them at 1-(888) 280-4331.

It is a good practice to never click on a link in a text message or email unless you have absolutely confirmed that it is legitimate.

Here is a link to information Amazon provides about steps you can take to make your account more secure.

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Scam of the day – September 20, 2023 – Move Over Mavis, Here Comes Kristine with Another Lottery Scam

I have been writing about scams related to Mavis Wanczyk for six years.  Many of you may not remember the name of Mavis Wanczyk, but she was the lucky winner of a 758 million dollar Powerball drawing in 2017. Not long after she claimed her prize, a scam started appearing in which many people received emails with the message line referring to the Mavis  Wanczyk Cash Grant. The email indicated that you were chosen to receive a large cash grant from Mavis  Wanczyk. All the lucky strangers receiving the emails had to do was provide personal information in order to qualify for the grant. In addition, phony social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were also set up in Ms. Wanczyk’s name through which people were contacted with the same phony offer of free money informing them that in order to qualify for the grant they merely needed to provide personal information.

Recently I received a text message that read as follows:

“On June 8, 2022, a profound transformation occurred in my life when I became one of the fortunate recipients of a substantial prize from the California Megamillions.  Upon discovering my win, a flood of emotions overwhelmed me, with gratitude being the predominant feeling.   As part of my commitment to giving back, my team and I have chosen you along with three other lucky individuals to each receive a one-million dollar grant.  This selection process was carried out impartially through a computerized ballot system and your phone number was randomly selected from an exclusive list of cell phone numbers sourced from the US TELCO data base. To facilitate this process, I kindly request that you provide the following information:  your full name, job title and physical address.  Please forward this information to as Mr. Diaz will be overseeing the entire process. Sincerely, Kristine”

It should be noted that on June 8, 2022 the real Kristine Wellenstein won 426 million dollars in the California Megamillions drawing.  It also should be noted that there is a law firm based in Miami named Diaz, Reus and Targ.  One of the lawyers is Michael Diaz, but he has nothing to do with this scam.


It is difficult to win a lottery you have entered. It is impossible to win one that you have never entered and neither lottery winners, nor anyone else is sending out messages through emails or text messages offering free money to anyone who responds with personal information. Never give out personal information that can make you vulnerable to identity theft unless you have absolutely verified that the party requesting the personal information is legitimate and has a legitimate need for the information.

Also never pay anything to a lottery claiming you owe fees in order to claim your prize.  This is a telltale sign of a scam.  No legitimate lottery requires the payment of a fee to collect your winnings or requires you to pay the lottery income taxes on the prize.  While income taxes are due on lottery winnings, those taxes are either deducted by the lottery sponsor before giving you your prize or the prize is given to you in full and you are responsible for the payment of any taxes.  No lottery collects taxes on behalf of the IRS.

Also, neither Mavis Wanczyk, nor Kristine Wellenstein nor any other lottery winner is giving away money to strangers.

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Scam of the day – September 19, 2023 – Investment Scams at Record Levels

Investment scams have always been with us, but according to the Federal Trade Commission, they reached 3.8 billion dollars of losses last year which was double the amount of the previous year.

Many of these investment scams are promoted on social media, emails and unsolicited phone calls.  Often the investment scams are operated as pump and dump schemes.  Pump and dump scams have been with us for hundreds of years, however recently they have evolved to keep pace with today’s technology.   A Pump and dump scheme is most often done with low priced stocks referred to as “penny stocks.” The scammers buy low priced stocks and then artificially inflate the price of the stocks by using text messages, faxes, Internet chat rooms and other means of communication posing as people with inside information that indicates that a stock is about to rise.  This prompts victims of the scam to buy the stock and temporarily inflate the value of the stock.  Meanwhile, the scammers sell their stock when the stock price gets bumped up and are long gone when the stock deflates and reverts back to its true value.

And, of course cryptocurrency scams are rampant as people too often invest without knowing what they are investing in or with whom they are investing.


Before investing with anyone, you should investigate the person offering to sell you the investment with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Central Registration Depository.  This will tell you if the broker is licensed and if there have been disciplinary procedures against him or her.  You can also check with your own state’s securities regulation office for similar information.  Many investment advisers will not be required to register with the SEC, but are required to register with your individual state’s securities regulators.   You can find your state’s agency by going to the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association. Many investment advisers will not be required to register with the SEC, but are required to register with your individual state securities regulators.  You should also check with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for information about the particular  investment adviser.

It is also important to remember that you should never  invest in something that you do not completely understand.  This was a mistake that many of Bernie Madoff’s victims made. You also may want to check out the SEC’s investor education website at  Scammers can be very convincing and it may sound like there is a great opportunity for someone to make some money, but you must be careful that the person making money is not the scam artist taking yours. Additionally, investing with someone merely because you trust them because you have heard them on the radio or television is dangerous.  Having the same person advise the investment and control the investment is a common thread among Ponzi schemers because it enables them to falsify documents to make the investment look profitable. Generally, for additional security it is desirable to have a separate broker-dealer act as custodian for investments chosen by an investment adviser.

For detailed information about cryptocurrency scams and how to avoid them check out this link from the FTC

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Scam of the day – September 18, 2023 – Phantom Debt Collection Scams

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 constitutes fraud.  In recent years the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken action against a number of these Phantom debt collection agencies.  These scammers used false claims and threats to compel people to pay debts which were largely either non-existent or which the defendants had no authority to collect. They also violated federal law by illegally failing to provide proper notices and disclaimers also required by federal law.


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. The law also prohibits debt collectors from communicating information about a debt to the consumer’s employer although they can contact the employer merely to obtain contact information about the employee

It can be difficult to know when someone calls attempting to collect a debt if indeed they are 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.

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Scam of the day – September 17, 2023 – Doctors, Nurses and Other Medical Personnel Targeted by Scammers

Most new scams are merely variations of older scam and today’s Scam of the day is one of those.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning doctors, nurses and other medical personnel of a scam in which the targeted victim receives a phone call from the scammer posing as a deputy sheriff who informs the targeted victim that he or she has missed a court date where he or she was supposed to testify as an expert witness.  The scammer goes on to tell the targeted victim that he or she will be arrested unless they pay a fine by gift cards.  Of course, anytime you are asked to make a payment by way of a gift card, you can be confident it is a scam.  Gift cards are a favorite method of payment for scammers because they are impossible to trace.

The scammer then goes on to tell the targeted victim that the gift cards must be delivered in person to the judge at the local courthouse.  The scammer then insists that they stay on the phone with the targeted victim while he or she purchases the gift cards.  Then, before they can get to the courthouse, the scammer tells the targeted victim that the judge is not available at this time, but that the targeted victim can give the card numbers over the phone to the scammer posing as a law enforcement official.  Gift cards can be readily used online without having the cards in hand so providing the numbers to the scammer is all the scammer needs to access the gift cards.


No government agency accepts payments by gift cards.  It is a sad commentary that the IRS has had to post on its website that it does not accept gift cards.  Additionally, no law enforcement agency will demand a payment over the phone or you will be arrested.

This particular scam has fooled some people by using the names of real law enforcement officers and by spoofing the phone numbers of various law enforcement agencies so that the call appears to be coming from a real law enforcement agency even though it is coming from the scammers phone.  As I have often told you, it is a simple matter for a scammer to manipulate your Caller ID to make a call appear to come from whatever source the scammer wishes.  Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.

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Scam of the day – September 16, 2023 – The Danger of Facebook Farming

We have all seen Facebook postings urging us to click that we “like” them.  Sometimes it is an emotional appeal to show support for a sick child.  Sometimes it is to show support for a political message.  Often it is a post related to a missing child.  Curiously enough, many times the description of the lost child is the same, namely the child is wearing black Converse with red and purpose shoestrings and a zip-up hoodie. Sometimes these appeals are legitimate, but unfortunately sometimes they are not.  Often they are done to take advantage of Facebook’s algorithms that value the popularity measured by likes and shares which then appear on the Facebook pages of more people.  Although the original content liked or shared may appear sincere or entertaining, the scammers who use this technique, which is called “farming,” then are able to change the content to something entirely different from what was originally shared or liked.  This can be done for purposes of sending advertising or gathering marketing information, but, at its worst, it can be used to send malware infected content that can steal personal information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.


So what should you do?  Posts that promise some sort of prize for sharing or liking are most likely scams. As for the other scams, you may wish to be a bit skeptical before automatically sharing or liking a post. You may wish to even do a little research yourself to find out if the posting is legitimate.    A 2007 photo of a seven year old Pennsylvania girl with Stage IV cancer posing in her cheerleading uniform has been used numerous times for Facebook farming.  Today that girl is a cancer free teenager whose family is understandably outraged that their daughter’s photograph has been abused by scammers through Facebook farming.

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Scam of the day – September 15, 2023 – Student Loan Debt Relief Scams Increasing

I have written often about phony student loan debt relief companies and with good reason.  More than forty-two million Americans have student loans with an outstanding balance of more than 1.4 trillion dollars so it is no surprise that scammers are focusing their attention on these students and former students through scams that falsely promise to provide debt relief.   Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that President Biden’s program for student loan forgiveness was unconstitutional.  Interest on student loans began accruing again on September 1st and repayments are scheduled to resume in October, leaving many people scrambling as to what to do about their student loans.

As you can imagine many people with large student loans are susceptible to scammers promising to reduce or eliminate student loan debt.  Scammers promoting phony loan forgiveness services are targeting people through robocalls, emails and text messages. The old adage still is true.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.  Many of these student loan debt relief scammers promise quick loan forgiveness, which is unrealistic.  In addition, you should never pay any upfront fees for student loan debt relief assistance.  Those fees are illegal and are a sure indication that you are being scammed.


For information you can trust about federal student loan repayment option, go to .  There you can learn about loan deferments, forbearance, repayment and loan forgiveness programs and there is never an application fee.  If you owe private student loans, contact your loan servicer directly.  You can also look into student loan refinancing rather than consolidating the loans.  Refinancing student loans can result in a lower interest rate.

Also, remember my motto, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”  Don’t trust scammers merely because they use names that sound like they are affiliated with the government.  You also should never share your FSA ID with anyone.

Here also is a link to an FTC video that explains student loan scams and what you can do to protect yourself.

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Scam of the day – September 14, 2023 – Bank Text Message Scam

Phony text messaging, called smishing, which  purport to be from your bank is a scam about which I have been warning you for years, but appears to be a scam that is dramatically increasing.  Recently, I received a text message that appeared to come from Citizens Bank which read “Account on hold:  Reason unverifiable profile.  Please update your profile below immediately to avoid blockage.”  A link then appeared in the text message that had no obvious connection to Citizens Bank.

Phony text messages like this can be particularly problematic if you have signed up to receive text message alerts from your bank. Whenever you receive a text message you can never be sure who is really sending it to you, so you should never call a telephone number indicated in the text message, provide information or click on links in such text messages which may either download ransomware malware on to your phone or keystroke logging malware that can lead to your becoming a victim of identity theft.

The best course of action when you receive such a text message, if you have a concern that it may be legitimate, is to merely independently contact your bank to determine whether or not the text message was a scam, but be careful that you do not misdial the telephone number of your bank as some scammers purchase phone numbers similar to those of legitimate banks and credit card companies hoping that they will receive calls from unwary consumers who may have merely misdialed the telephone number of their bank or credit card company.


Regardless of how official such a text message may appear, you should never provide personal information to anyone in response to a telephone call, email or text message because in none of those situations can you be sure that the person contacting you is legitimate.  If you do receive a communication from a bank, government agency or any other person or entity that you think might have a legitimate need for personal information from you, you should call the real entity at a telephone number that you know is legitimate in order to ascertain the truth.

Banks do not call, text or email their customers asking for personal information.  You should always be skeptical of anyone asking for such information.  Of course, if you receive a text message that appears to come from a bank at which you do not have an account, you can be confident it is a scam. If the text message provides for you to respond to stop future texts, don’t do it. Sending such a message to a scammer merely alerts them to the fact that yours is an active phone number.

Finally, although today’s Scam of the day focuses on phony bank text messages, it is a good idea to sign up to receive text alerts from your bank which can be customized for your own particular needs. In regard to the text message that I received, a close examination of the sender would indicate that it came from “Citizen Bank” rather than “Citizens Bank” which is the name of the legitimate bank (and not one at which I have an account.)

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Scam of the day – September 13, 2023 – Bed, Bath & Beyond Sales Scams

For many years Bed, Bath & Beyond was a popular housewares and specialty items store.  I always enjoyed shopping there and if you ever shopped there you may remember their receipts with ream upon ream of coupons.  In any event, the company came upon hard times and declared bankruptcy earlier this year and closed the last of their physical locations in August.  However, the company, which was bought by continues to operate as an online store and therein lies the scam.  Effective scams often have a kernel of truth to lure you in. In this case, people are aware that Bed, Bath & Beyond went bankrupt so they are susceptible to postings on Facebook and other social media that appear to be from Bed, Bath & Beyond offering tremendous  online bargains in their going out of business sale.  If you click on the posts, they take you to a website that appears to be that of Bed, Bath & Beyond.  However, if you purchase anything from the counterfeit site, you don’t get anything in return.


I have often warned you about counterfeit websites.  The less sophisticated ones can be immediately identified by URLs that have nothing to do with the company or poor grammar.  However, some of the counterfeit sites appear quite legitimate and with the use of AI it is even easier for a scammer to create a legitimate looking site.  The best thing to do if you are considering whether to make a purchase from any website that appears to be of a legitimate company is to check if the URL really is that of the company. One way to do this is to go to ICANN which registers domain names and put in the URL of the site you are directed to in order to see if it is owned by the real company or a scammer.  An ICANN lookup will let you know who really owns the particular website.  Here is a link to ICANN’s lookup tool. what appears to be a website of Bed, Bath & Beyond ends up being owned by someone in North Korea, for example,  you know it is a scam.

As for Bed, Bath & Beyond, their website in the United States is and in Canada is

It is also important to point out that whenever you shop whether online or in a brick and mortar store, you should use your credit card rather than your debit card.  The laws protecting you from fraudulent purchases made using your credit card are much stronger than those when you use your debit card.

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