Scam of the Day

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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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Scam of the day – April 16, 2019 – Major Email Services Hacked

Microsoft has disclosed that it suffered a data breach in which email services that it operates, Outlook, MSN and Hotmail were compromised.  According to MIcrosoft, the hackers were able to leverage a customer support account to access the email accounts of a “limited” number of customers.  However, Motherboard, a multi-platform publication disputes Microsoft’s characterization of the number of affected customers and, without providing estimates, refers to the number of affected people as “a large number.”  Microsoft has said that the compromised information was limited to customers’ email addresses, email subject lines and frequent contracts although Motherboard reports that the hackers were able to access email content.  Microsoft has said that the unauthorized access to email accounts occurred between January 1, 2019 and March 28th although again, Motherboard disputes this and says that the data breach may have gone on for as long as six months.

If indeed the hackers were able to read the contents of the mails, any personal information such as Social Security numbers that may have appeared in emails could pose a significant threat of identity theft.  even if content was not accessible to the hackers, the email addresses of victims of the data breach and the email addresses of their frequent contacts could be used by the hackers to formulate specifically targeted spear phishing emails to lure unsuspecting people to click on links containing malware.

TIPS

We are only as secure as the companies that have our information with the weakest security.  It is important for everyone to be aware of the danger of spear phishing and to never click on links in emails regardless of how trustworthy they may appear unless you have absolutely confirmed that the email is legitimate.  Spear phishing continues to be one of the biggest threats to your online security.  If you use Outlook, MSN or Hotmail, you should be particularly skeptical of email you receive and don’t click on links or download attachments unless you have confirmed their legitimacy.  Finally, if you don’t already do so, now would be a good time, regardless of whatever email server you use, to consider encrypting your email.  Outlook and other email providers provide options for encrypting your email, but a simple way to encrypt email is to use an encrypted email service such as Tutanota which is very popular.  Here is a link to their website. https://tutanota.com/

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Scam of the day – April 15, 2019 – Ransomware Continues to be a Major Problem

Ransomware attacks have increased dramatically in 2019.  Recently the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about ransomware and steps you can take to combat the problem.  Here is a link to that warning: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST19-001

Ransomware is the name for malware that once installed on a computer, often unwittingly through clicking on links in spear phishing emails, encrypts and locks all of the victim’s data.  The cybercriminal then threatens to destroy the data unless a bounty is paid.  In 2017 we experienced two massive ransomware attacks against millions of computers around the world.  These were the infamous WannaCry and Peta ransomware attacks. Later, the city government of Atlanta becoming a victim of ransomware when some of its systems were frozen using the infamous SamSam family of malware that has been used successfully against a number of companies and municipalities. In its 2018 Verizon Data Breach Report, Verizon, which gathered data from 65 organizations in 65 countries, found that ransomware, which was only the 22nd most common malware in 2014, is now the number one most common malware used by cybercriminals.

Now a new version of ransomware called Anatova has appeared and is infecting computers around the world. It has been reported in the United States, Belgium, Germany, France, the UK and other European countries. Interestingly, it is designed not to infect computers in Russia, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq and India.  Anatova is being spread by being disguised as a free video game download.  Once downloaded Anatova displays a demand on your computer for the payment of a cryptocurrency ransom of approximately $700.  The ransom demand note indicates “Nothing personal, only business.”

While companies and government agencies are often the targets of ransomware, individuals are also targeted by this malware, as well. In fact, according to a report by the security firm Malwarebytes, ransomware attacks against consumers increased have increased dramatically in the past few years.

TIPS

Often ransomware attacks as well as most other types of malware attacks are spread through phishing emails that lure unsuspecting people into clicking on malware infected links or downloading attachments tainted with malware.  As I am constantly reminding you, never click on links or download attachments until you have confirmed that they are legitimate.  In regard to Anatova, you should avoid downloading free video games unless you have absolutely confirmed that the game is legitimate.  Free video games and free music downloads have long been methods cybercriminals have used to lure people into downloading a wide variety of malware including ransomware.

You also should update all of your electronic devices with the latest security updates and patches as soon as they become available, preferably automatically.  Many past ransomware attacks exploited vulnerabilities for which patches had already been issued. However, even if you have the most up to date security software on your computer and phone, it will not protect you from the latest zero day defect malware which is malware that exploits previously undiscovered vulnerabilities.

As for protecting yourself specifically from ransomware, you should regularly back up all of your data on at least two different platforms, such as in the Cloud and on a portable hard drive.

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Scam of the day – April 14, 2019 – New Adobe Security Updates

Adobe has just issued new security updates for the popular, but intensely flawed Adobe Flash Player along with other Adobe products.   Not long ago, Adobe confirmed that it will stop updating and distributing Adobe Flash at the end of 2020 although frankly, it would be wise for you to migrate away from this very vulnerable software program as soon as possible. In 2010 Steve Jobs vociferously complained about its security and would not allow it to used on iPhones, iPods and iPads due to its serious susceptibility to being hacked. Flaws in Adobe Flash have been exploited by hackers and identity thieves against individuals, companies and government agencies including the U.S. State Department and the White House. Adobe will still be issuing security patches until the end of 2020, but now is a good time to move away from Adobe Flash if you have not already done so.

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.

TIPS

Here is a link to the new update for Adobe Flash and other Adobe software programs: https://helpx.adobe.com/security.html

However, it may well be time for you to replace Adobe Flash to avoid future problems.

Here is a link to a website with alternative plugins you may wish to consider to replace Adobe Flash.
http://alternativeto.net/software/flash-player/

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Scam of the day – April 13, 2019 – Homeless Veteran Involved in GoFundMe Scam Gets Probation

It started out in November of 2017 as a feel-good story about Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless veteran, who, according to the story reported throughout the media, gave his last twenty dollars to Kate McClure a stranded motorist who had run out of gas at the side of a road in Philadelphia, The story continued with McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico starting a GoFundMe account for Bobbitt that raised $400,000 of donations from more than 14,000 people touched by the story. But then the story began to unravel. First, Bobbitt sued McClure and D’Amico alleging that they shared little of the money raised with him, but instead used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle. Eventually all three had criminal charges of conspiracy and theft by deception brought against them by prosecutors alleging that the entire story was a sham and that the three concocted the story in order to scam people into making donations. According to prosecutors, the three had met at a casino and came up with the scam. The story about being stranded by the roadside, prosecutors say, was totally fabricated. It should be noted, however, that the one truth in this entire story is that Johnny Bobbitt is a homeless veteran.

Yesterday Bobbitt, who had pleaded guilty received a sentence of five years probation and is cooperating with prosecutors and expected to testify against D’Amicao and McClure.

TIPS

One of the good aspects of GoFundMe is its guarantee that if scams like this are discovered, GoFundMe will refund all donations made to the scammers. Here is a link to GoFundMe’s guarantee. https://support.gofundme.com/hc/en-us/articles/203604704-The-GoFundMe-Guarantee

In addition, GoFundMe also provides tips for people trying to distinguish scams from legitimate requests for donation, which describe things you should consider before making a donation such as whether or not the intended beneficiary of the donations is in control of the withdrawals and if not, if there is a clear path for the funds to reach him or her. For a full list of the things you should consider before making a GoFundMe donation, click on this link. https://support.gofundme.com/hc/en-us/articles/115015913668-How-to-Determine-if-a-GoFundMe-is-Safe-to-Donate-To

GoFundMe does a good job of trying to keep its site free of scams, but of course, they will never be perfect. Fortunately, due to their guarantee policy, no one making a donation should feel there is a danger of losing their money to a discovered scam.

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Scam of the day – April 12, 2019 – FTC Shuts Down Makers of Phony Brain Supplements

The FTC has settled charges it brought against four individuals and their companies that sold bogus supplements that promised to increase your cognitive abilities.  Here is a link to the FTC’s original complaint. https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/geniux_complaint_4-10-19.pdf?utm_source=govdelivery

As a result of the settlement, the defendants must stop marketing the products which had different names including Geniux, Ecel, EVO and Ion-Z.  The settlement also imposed a multi million dollar fine.  The supplements, which sold for between $47 and $57 per bottle, were marketed by the defendants using phony news websites that contained false and unsubstantiated claims as well as citing non-existent clinical studies.  The websites also featured phony consumer and celebrity endorsements.  Among the totally false claims unsupported by scientific evidence were that the supplement could increase memory by as much as 300%, increase IQ by as much as 100% and prevent memory loss.  The ads falsely claimed that scientists referred to the supplements as “Smart Pill ‘Viagra for the Brain.'”  All of these claims were lies and misrepresentations.

TIPS

The truth is that there are no pills or quick fixes that can dramatically increase your brain power or memory.  You should always be wary of products being  sold that promise to dramatically improve your memory or increase your brain’s efficiency.  Never buy any such product without doing research as to the effectiveness of the product and consulting with your own physician.

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Scam of the day – April 11, 2019 – Wells Fargo Phishing Email

Here is another good example of a phishing email that is presently being circulated.   It makes for compelling reading, but it is a scam.  Phishing emails, by which scammers and identity thieves attempt to lure you into either clicking on links contained within the email which will download malware or providing personal information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft, are nothing new.  They are a staple of identity thieves and scammers and with good reason because they work.  As always, they lure you by making it appear that there is an emergency that requires your immediate attention or else dire consequences will occur.  Copied below is a new phishing email  presently being sent to unsuspecting people that appears to come from Wells Fargo.  This particular one came with particularly good looking graphics and a Wells Fargo logo, but it is a scam.

TIPS

An indication that this is a phishing email is that the email address from which it was sent had nothing to do with Wells Fargo but most likely was sent from a computer that was part of a botnet of computers hacked into and controlled remotely by the scammer.  In addition, legitimate emails from your bank would include the last four digits of your account.  Often such phishing emails originate in countries where English is not the primary language and the spelling and grammar are poor. However, this particular phishing email is done quite artfully, which only serves to make it more dangerous.  Obviously, if you are not a Wells Fargo customer, you will recognize immediately that this is a scam.

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 will download keystroke logging malware that will steal all of your personal information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.  If you receive an email like this and think it may possibly be legitimate, merely call your bank or other institution from which the email purports to originate at a telephone number that you know is accurate and you will be able to confirm that it is a scam.

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wellsfargo.com

We’re updating Online Customer Access and Details

When you enrolled in Wells Fargo Online Â®Wells Fargo Business Online Â®, online services through Wells Fargo Mobile Â® or Wells Fargo Advisors, you reviewed and accepted our Online Access Agreement (OAA), which governs your use of our online and mobile products and services. On Apr 09, 2019 , the OAA will be revised to reflect service changes and to remove outdated information from the previous year.

Action is required on your part.

Your use of Wells Fargo Online, Wells Fargo Business Online, Wells Fargo Mobile, or Wells Fargo Advisors online services after receiving this notice confirms your agreement to these changes.

  • Please review your, Online Customer Access Details to update your Online Account and avoid loss of your information and instances of fraud.
  • If you would like to view your balances, transfer funds, pay a bill, or research our products and services, sign on to your account at wellsfargo.com once your online details have been updated.
  • Forgot your username or password? Visit Username / Password Help.
If you have questions about your account, please refer to the contact information on your statement. For questions about viewing your statements online, Wells Fargo Customer Service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us at 1-800-956-4542 or sign on to send a secure email.
Please do not reply to this email directly. To ensure a prompt and secure response, sign on to email us.
0834FBE475E871E9E0540021283BC044

Scam of the day – April 10, 2019 – New Cell Phone Scam

The recent arrest in Florida of two scammers has highlighted a new scam criminals are using to enable them to charge expensive cell phone to your accounts.  According to Clearwater, Florida police, Ah’jhzae Diamondric Artag Berry and Keith Ramsey contacted their intended scam victims by email posing as Verizon, saying that Verizon had identified fraudulent use of their accounts and that Verizon would send them a verification code to verify their identity by a text message that they should provide to the scammers by phone at a telephone number through which the scammers posed as customer service representatives.   In other variations of this scam, the initial contact is made by a phone call from the scammers, who are able to use the technique called “spoofing” to make the call appear to your Caller ID as if it had come from your phone carrier.  The victim actually does receive a verification code from the phone carrier, which was in the Florida cases, Verizon, however the reason that the victims of the scam receive the verification code is because the scammers are already trying to log into their victims’ accounts and the verification code is sent to the real account holder’s cell phone by text message as a part of the authentication process for access to the account. In the Florida cases, once the verification codes were provided to Berry and Ramsey, they were able to complete  access to their victims’ accounts and add their own names to the accounts.  Each then went to a Verizon store and attempted to purchase expensive cell phones.  Fortunately, however, in both instances, store employees recognized what was happening and alerted the police.

TIPS

A key thing to remember in order to avoid this type of scam is that neither Verizon nor any other cell phone carrier will ever ask you by phone for the verification code used to authenticate your access to your account. This is only used for accessing your account on line.  Anyone who asks for your code over the phone is a scammer.  Also, whenever you receive an email, text message or phone call, you can never be sure who actually is contacting you so you should never give provide personal information in response to such an email, text message or phone call unless you have absolutely confirmed that the communication is legitimate.  The best course of action if you think the communication is legitimate is to contact the company directly at a phone number that you know is legitimate to find out the truth.  In the case of Verizon, their real Customer Service number is 800-922-0204.  Additionally, just as you should  monitor your credit card statements regularly, you should also monitor your phone service carrier bill regularly to identify any fraudulent purchases or if anyone has been added to your account.

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