Scam of the Day

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Scam of the day – December 6, 2022 – Watch Out for Porch Pirates

The popularity of online shopping has brought a dramatic increase in the number of packages delivered by companies such as UPS and Federal Express.  The popularity of online shopping has also resulted in a new term entering the lexicon, namely, “porch pirate,” which is the name given to criminals who cruise through neighborhoods looking for packages to steal that have been left on the doorsteps of homes by delivery services.  It has been estimated that more than 25 million Americans will have packages stolen from their front doorsteps during the holiday shopping season.  Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of this crime.

TIPS

If you are not going to be home at the expected time of a delivery, an easy solution is to either have the package delivered to your place of work or have a neighbor who will be home be on the lookout for deliveries to your home.  You also can request that all deliveries require a signature, although this can slow down the delivery process if you aren’t home and end up requiring you to drive to a distribution center if repeated attempts at delivery are thwarted because no one is home to sign for the package.

Another option for protecting yourself is renting a locker at a local package receiving center.  These can be found in most big cities. One of the companies that provide this service in New York City is https://www.golocker.com/  You also can rent an Amazon Locker where your Amazon deliveries can be sent. https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=GXCWH4CXLKJD8Z52

Amazon Prime also offers the Amazon Key Home Kit which comes with an app, a smart lock and security camera.  When a delivery is going to be made to your home, you can unlock your home remotely through the app in order to allow the delivery person to bring the package inside your home.  The security camera observes the delivery person throughout the entire process.  When the delivery is completed, you can relock your home using the app.

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Scam of the day – December 5, 2022 – World Cup Scams

The FIFA World Cup tournament is in full swing in Qatar. This is the most popular sporting event in the world. With an estimated half of the world’s population eagerly watching the FIFA World Cup tournament it should come as no surprise that this event has spawned numerous scams and identity theft schemes concocted by criminals around the world.   Security researchers at the company Group-IB found 16,000 phony websites using counterfeit FIFA World Cup 2022 branding.  They also found 40 fake apps in the Google Play Store related to the FIFA World Cup 2022.

Phony lotteries that appear to be operated by FIFA or its corporate sponsors such as Visa or Coca Cola are also popular with scammers. Victims receive emails informing them that they have won a lottery that they never entered and are asked to pay fees required to claim their prize. They also may be required to provide personal information, which is then used for purposes of identity theft.

There also are numerous scammers selling “official” merchandise on line and hundreds of ads on social media for these bogus sites that often merely steal your credit card information and send nothing in return.

TIPS

It is impossible to win a contest you have not entered so that should be warning enough not to click on links in emails regarding contests you apparently have won although you never entered. In addition, no legitimate lottery requires you to pay administrative fees or taxes to claim your prize, but the phony lotteries do.  Anytime you are asked to pay a fee to claim your prize it is a scam.

It is impossible to know if any of these emails that you receive regarding the World Cup are legitimate, so do yourself a favor and stick to either the official FIFA website, http://www.fifa.com or other sports websites that you know are legitimate, such as ESPN’s http://www.espn.com.. As for purchasing official merchandise, again you are better off only dealing with the official FIFA website.

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Scam of the day – December 4, 2022 – FTC Shuts Down Credit Card Debt Relief Scammers.

Credit card debt which often carries an interest rate that is so high it could cause a nose bleed is a concern for many people and, as always, anything that concerns many people is something that scammers are interested in.  Recently the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint and obtained a preliminary injunction shutting down ACRO Services and its related companies that the FTC claimed was operating a deceptive credit card debt relief scam in which ACRO claimed it could clean up your credit card debt in return for an enrollment fee of thousand of dollars plus additional monthly fees.

Unfortunately, ACRO and its affiliated companies offered nothing of value.  Making matters worse, they advised their customers to stop making monthly payments to their credit card companies and to stop all communications with their credit card companies which merely led to higher credit card balances, additional credit card interest, lower credit scores and even lawsuits by the credit card companies for failure to pay in some instances.

TIPS

It is important to remember that the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rules specifically prohibit charging advance fees before providing any debt relief services.  Any company that requires an advance fee before they have completed their successful debt reduction services is breaking the law.  Never pay an upfront fee for a company providing debt relief.  You also may want to consider avoiding scams like this by enrolling in the federal Do Not Call List so that if you are contacted by a telemarketer, you already know it would be someone who is knowingly breaking the law and cannot be trusted.  Registering for the Do Not Call List is easy and free.  Merely go to http://www.donotcall.gov to register your phone number.

If you need real credit counseling you can go to this section of the Department of Justice’s website where it lists agencies approved to assist consumers with debt problems. https://www.justice.gov/ust/list-credit-counseling-agencies-approved-pursuant-11-usc-111    You also may consider contacting companies that are affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at this link https://www.nfcc.org/

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Scam of the day – December 3, 2022 – Google Voice Code Scam

Today’s Scam of the day was sent to me by a Scamicide reader who listed a small item for sale on Craigslist along with his cell phone number for people to contact him.  Someone responded to his ad through a text message in which they indicated that they were interested in purchasing the item but wanted to verify that he was a real person by sending a 6 digit code that they would send in a separate text message.  The Scamicide reader’s Scamdar (a word I invented to describe when you are suspicious of a scam, similar to radar) was activated and he did not provide the 6 digit code which was a good thing because the person answering the advertisement was indeed a scammer.

The scam involves the Google Voice/Google Phone service which is a free phone number provided to you by Google.  Calls to that number are forwarded to your cell phone.  In order to set up a Google Phone number you need to provide your phone number for verification purposes.  Google then texts or calls you with a 6 digit code that you must enter online to finish the process.  The good news is that if you fall for the scam and send the 6 digit code to the scammer, you won’t lose any money, however, you can be sure that a scammer will be using your phone number to perpetrate scams and hide his or her tracks.

TIPS

If you do fall for the scam, you need to get your personal number back.  This is a somewhat complicated process.  Here is a link that takes you to the instructions found in the Google Voice Help Forum.  https://support.google.com/voice/thread/845902?hl=en

A good rule to remember to avoid this problem is to never enter any 6 digit code on calls or text messages from Google unless you have initiated the process and requested that your number be used for your Google Voice Account.

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Scam of the day – December 1, 2022 – IRS Refund or Rebate Scam

Scammers and identity thieves are always adapting their scams.  One of their staples is where they contact you by phone posing as an IRS representative who tells you that you will be arrested if you do not pay fictional overdue taxes.  While many people have fallen for this scam, particularly because their Caller Id has been manipulated through “spoofing” to make the call appear as if it came from the IRS, more and more people are recognizing that this is a scam.  One way to know whether or not it is the IRS calling you to collect overdue taxes is to recognize that the IRS never initiates contact about collecting overdue taxes by phone so anytime you get such a call, it is from a scammer.

Now, however, the identity thieves are modifying the scam by sending people text messages that say that you are owed a tax rebate or refund rather than demanding a payment.  You are instructed in the email to click on a link to claim your refund.  Unfortunately, only two things can happen if you click on that link.  Either you will end up providing personal information that will result in your becoming a victim of identity theft or alternatively, merely by clicking on the link you will download dangerous malware such as ransomware.

TIPS

The IRS is not going to contact you by text message about anything so if you get such a text message, you should ignore it.  The IRS always initiates communications with taxpayers through a letter rather than an email, text message or phone call.

If you ever want to check on the status of a pending IRS refund, you can use this link https://sa.www4.irs.gov/irfof/lang/en/irfofgetstatus.jsp

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Scam of the day – November 30, 2022 – FTC Sending Further Refunds to Victims of Career Information Scammer

In 2021, the FTC settled its claims against Career Education Corp. (CEC) and as a result is now sending refunds totaling thirty million dollars to victims of CEC’s scams.  CEC bought leads from companies that constructed bogus websites to attract people looking for information about jobs, how to enlist in the military and Medicaid information.  CEC would then use that information to contact them and made high-pressure sales calls to induce people to enroll in their schools that would not provide the services they desired.  According to the FTC, CEC  used telemarketers to make aggressive enrollment pitches to people who had signed up for the federal Do Not Call List.

The FTC first sent out refund checks to victims of the scam in 2021, but now due to the fact that there is money remaining from the penalty paid by CEC, the FTC is sending out a second round of refunds.

TIPS

Whenever you are searching online for information about jobs, the military or government benefits, you should be wary of scammers.  Merely because a search brings up a website high on a search does not mean that the website is legitimate.  The website may either have paid for that position or manipulated the algorithms used to rate websites to get a high position in a search.  Therefore, if you find an unfamiliar website that appears to have the information you are seeking, you should do an additional search putting in the name of the unfamiliar website with the words, “scam,” or “complaint” and see what comes up.

In regard to looking for a job, check out the Department of Labor’s American Job Centers for information about jobs in your state.  Here is their link https://www.careeronestop.org/localhelp/americanjobcenters/find-american-job-centers.aspx

For information about enlisting in the military services, a good place to get reliable information is this site of the Department of Defense. https://www.todaysmilitary.com/joining-eligibility/questions-ask-recruiter

For reliable information about Medicaid benefits go to https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/index.html

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Scam of the day – November 29, 2022 – FTC Accuses Company of Covid Supplement Fraud

While the instances of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections are nowhere near their levels during the height of the pandemic, the virus is still with us and still poses a public health threat.  Unfortunately, unscrupulous companies are marketing bogus COVID cures and treatments that are totally ineffective.  In the last couple of years I have reported on the efforts of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop scammers from preying on the fears of people by selling them worthless or even harmful phony cures and treatments.

Recently the FTC sued Precision Patient Outcomes and its CEO, Margrett Priest Lewis for marketing  dietary supplements consisting of just some vitamins, zinc and a flavonoid as an effective treatment for COVID-19 although, according to the FTC, there is no scientific evidence that their supplement offer the slightest help against COVID-19.

TIPS

As for healthcare products in general, you should be skeptical about companies that promise miraculous cures to illnesses and medical conditions.  The world is full of snake oil salesmen.  You should also be wary of any healthcare product that is sold exclusively either over the Internet or through mail-order advertisements. The best course of action is to ask your physician about the effectiveness of a particular product or program before you buy it.  As for the Coronavirus specifically, the best places to get reliable information are  the World Health Organization https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus and the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html  You also can find trustworthy Coronavirus treatment information at the website of the FDA. https://www.fda.gov/patients/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-resources-patients

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Scam of the day – November 28, 2022 – Dangers of E Skimming

Regular readers of Scamicide are certainly familiar with skimmers which are devices installed on ATMs and credit and debit card processors that steal information from credit and debit cards thereby enabling criminals to use that information to make charges on those cards.  The increased use in recent years of cards with chip technology has dramatically decreased the amount of fraudulent purchases made through stolen credit and debit card information because the chip card creates a new authorization number each time the card is used thereby negating the value of skimming a credit card with a computer chip.

Chip card technology, however, offers no protection when credit and debit cards are used for online purchases.  The FBI has warned about what it calls E-Skimming which occurs when criminals infect the websites of businesses and government agencies with malware that allows the criminal to steal credit card and debit card  information and then use it to make charges using the victim’s credit card or debit card.  With much of the holiday shopping season expected to be done online, the instances of E-Skimming can be expected to increase.

TIPS

There are many steps that businesses and government agencies should take to protect their sites from this type of crime.  They should update their security software with the most recent security updates; change default login credentials on their systems; segment their network systems to limit access by criminals and educate their employees to the dangers of phishing and spear phishing emails because it is through these phishing and spear phishing emails that most malware is delivered.  A good rule for us all to follow is to never click on links in emails unless you have absolutely confirmed that the email is legitimate.

What, can we as consumers do, however, to protect ourselves from becoming a victim of E-Skimming?

First and foremost, while it may be more convenient to leave your credit card on file with an online retailer you regularly use, this is not a good thing to do because it leaves you more vulnerable to having your credit card data stolen in the event of a data breach and as we all know, data breaches are and will continue to be very common.

Consumers should refrain from using their debit cards for anything other than as an ATM card. Use a credit card for all of your card purchases to achieve greater consumer protection.  The holder of a credit card used for fraudulent purposes cannot be assessed more than $50 for such use and most credit card companies charge nothing. However, the potential liability of a person whose debit card has been compromised can reach his or her entire bank account tied to the card if the card owner does not report the crime promptly and even if the card owner does report the theft promptly, the debit card owner’s access to his or her own bank account is frozen while the bank investigates the crime.

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Scam of the day – November 27, 2022 – Phony Coupons Can Cost You Dearly

The holiday shopping season is well underway and many people are looking for coupons to cut the cost.  Everyone loves coupons and like many things in our lives, coupons which used to be found commonly in newspapers and magazines have migrated online.  As I have warned you many times in the past, Facebook has become a hotbed for phony online coupons. The phony coupons looks quite legitimate which means nothing because it is very easy to copy the company logos and make the coupons appear to be genuine. The way that many phony coupon scams work is that in order to qualify for the coupon, you must complete a survey in which you are required to provide much personal information that is used to make you a victim of identity theft. In other versions of the scam, the scammer actually asks for your credit card numbers. In yet another version of the scam you are required to buy costly items in order to claim your “free” coupon. Many of the coupon scams also require you to forward the coupon to friends which make the phony coupons look more legitimate when they are received by your friends. Ultimately, in all of these scams, the coupons are worthless and you get nothing but the opportunity to become a victim of identity theft.  Here is  a copy of a phony coupon appearing online.  It was provided by the Identity Theft Resource Center.

A screenshot of a Facebook post showing the fake Costco coupon used by scammers. (Identity Theft Resource Center)

TIPS

If the coupon appears too good to be true, it usually is a scam. No company could cover the cost of giving away vast numbers of $75 coupons although sometimes, participants in legitimate surveys are promised a chance to win a prize in a drawing.  Facebook is a favorite venue for scammers perpetrating this type of scam because often unwary victims will unwittingly share the scam with their friends.  One way to determine if a coupon is legitimate is to look for the expiration date found on most coupons.  The phony Costco coupon shown above like most phony coupons does not carry an expiration date. The best place to go to find out if a coupon is legitimate is to go to the company’s website to see what real coupons are being offered.

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