Scam of the Day

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Scam of the day – March 28, 2020 – Another Amazon Phishing Email

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

The latest Amazon phishing scam starts with an email that appears to come from Amazon confirming an order you didn’t make and providing a telephone number for you to call to dispute the order.   If you do call, you will be prompted to verify personal information, however, if you provide the personal information, you will be providing the personal information to a scammer who will use the information to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

While this is a very legitimate appearing email that uses the Amazon logo and also is written with proper grammar and punctuation the grammar, there are a number of indications that this is a phishing email. Legitimate emails from Amazon would  be directed to you by name rather than being addressed to your email address as this phishing email was.   Most tellingly, this phishing email is sent from an address that has no relation to Amazon. If you receive an email like this and think it may possibly be actually from Amazon, merely call the customer service number for Amazon where you can confirm that it is a scam.  The real number to call if you suspect Amazon related fraud is 866-216-1075.

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Scam of the day – March 27, 2020 – Coronavirus Stimulus Package Check Scams

Today, Friday March 27th, the House of Representatives is expected to approve the coronavirus stimulus package approved on Wednesday unanimously by the Senate and send it to the President for his signature.  A significant part of this legislation is the checks of up to $1,200 per person that will be sent by the Department of the Treasury to most Americans. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin expects the checks to be processed and sent to most Americans within three weeks and while this timetable may be a bit optimistic, it does appear that the funds will be sent out relatively quickly.

The amount you will be receiving is dependent upon your adjusted gross income as listed on your most recent federal income tax return. People with adjusted incomes of $75,000 or less will receive $1,200 or $2,400 for qualifying individuals filing a joint income tax return.  In addition, there will be additional payments of $500 for each qualifying child.  Americans with adjusted gross income of more than $75,000 or $150,000 for a joint return will have their payment reduced by 5% of the amount your income exceeds $75,000.  The payments will disappear for single filers with adjusted gross incomes more than $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children.

The scammers have been waiting for weeks for this to become a reality and they are ready to strike.  Scammers posing as government employees will be contacting you by phone, email and text messages asking you to pay a fee in order to receive your government check.  Other scammers posing as government officials will ask for your Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number in order for you to qualify for a payment.  The truth is that you do not have to do anything to qualify for a payment.  You do not need to pay a fee.  You do not need to apply for  your check.  You do not need to provide any personal information.  Your eligibility will be determined by the IRS and your check will be either wired directly into the bank account you use to receive your income tax refund or if you have not provided the IRS with information about your bank account, your check will be sent to you by mail.  It is as simple as that.

TIPS

Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  Whenever you are contacted on the phone, by email or text message, you cannot be sure who is really contacting you.  Even if your Caller ID indicates the call is from a legitimate federal agency such as the Treasury Department, it is easy for a scammer to “spoof” that number and make it appear on your Caller ID even if the call is coming from another number.  In regard to the funds soon to be sent to you pursuant to the coronavirus stimulus package you will not have to make a payment or provide personal information in order to receive your check.  Please share this Scam of the day with your friends and family and let them know about http://www.scamicide.com so we can help more people avoid being scammed during this vulnerable time.

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Scam of the day – March 26, 2020 – Adobe Issues Critical Security Updates

Adobe has just issued new security updates for a number of its products including Adobe Acrobat and Reader.  Last year 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 loudly complained about Adobe Flash’s lack of security and would not allow it to be 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 147 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 the link to the latest Adobe security updates for a number of their software programs including Adobe Acrobat and Reader: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2020/03/18/adobe-releases-security-updates-multiple-products

If you have not already done so, 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 – March 25, 2020 – Publishers Clearing House Scam

Publishers Clearing House, the sponsor of some of the most popular legitimate lotteries in the country no longer limits its contests to one or two a year, but has numerous lotteries each month. Recently there has been an increase in reports of scammers calling people on the telephone and telling them that they have won one of the Publishers Clearing House lotteries, but that they have to pay fees or taxes before being able to claim their prize.  In addition there are reports of targeted victims receiving phony notifications by regular mail that they have won a Publishers Clearing House lottery, but that again they must pay fees or taxes before being able to receive their prize.  Recently, a 91 year old woman in Missouri lost $250,000 to this type of scam.  The scam started in November of 2019 when the scam victim was told on the phone that she had won 4 million dollars in a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.  However, she was told that before she could claim her prize, she needed to pay Publishers Clearing House the income taxes owed on the prize.  Repeatedly from November through February she sent check after check with payments that she thought were to be applied to taxes on her phony winnings.  It wasn’t until her son and daughter in law became aware of what happened that they convinced her to stop sending money to the scammers.

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

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

TIPS

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

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

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Scam of the day – March 24, 2020 – Coronavirus Phony Grant Scam

Scams related to the coronavirus pandemic are spreading as fast as the virus itself.  Scammers continue to take advantage of the fear, concern and interests in all things related to the coronavirus.  The latest scam involves phony government grants for which the targeted victims of the scam are told they are eligible.  In some instances the funds for which you are told you are eligible are as high as $150,000.  The scams are being spread through social media posts, text messages, emails and phone calls.  One of the many versions of this scam appears as a Facebook post informing people about a special grant to assist in the payment of medical bills.  The post contains a link which takes you to the website of the non-existent federal agency described as the “U.S. Emergency Grants Federation.”  In order to qualify for the grant you are required to provide your Social Security number.  Of course there are no grants and when you provide your Social Security number to the scammer, he or she uses it to make you a victim of identity theft.  In other versions of the scam you are required to pay a processing fee in order to receive your grant money.  This is a red flag that this is a scam because the federal government does not charge fees for applying for grants. Many times Facebook is used as the medium through which people are contacted regarding these scams.  It is not surprising that scammers use Facebook for these purposes.   The very popularity of Facebook 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.  Last year there was a resurgence of a Facebook related scam that  started 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.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services, some of the key phrases used by scammers that you should be on the lookout for are “We do all the work.  You just pay a processing fee;” and  “You can’t get this information anywhere else.”

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 or gift card number because once funds have been transferred in this fashion, they are impossible to retrieve.  In addition, you can never be sure who is really contacting you when you receive a text message or phone call so you should be immediately skeptical of any such communication that asks for personal information or a payment.

The federal government does not charge any fee to apply for a grant.  It also does not use Facebook or other social media to provide information about grants.  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 http://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 http://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 http://www.Benefits.gov.

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Scam of the day – March 23, 2020 – Western Union Refunds

As I first reported to you in January of 2017, Western Union, which provides money wiring services around the world settled fraud charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and a number of states’ Attorneys General.  Under the terms of the settlement which was achieved through a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, Western Union is paying 586 million dollars to reimburse victims of the various scams facilitated by Western Union in conjunction with scammers around the world who used the services of Western Union to illegally launder funds.  A Deferred Prosecution Agreement allows Western Union to avoid a criminal conviction if it complies with all of the settlement terms.

Wiring money has long been a favored method for scammers to request payment in a wide variety of scams because of the difficulty of tracing or retrieving the funds once they have been wired.
Among the scams uncovered by prosecutors were scams in which the scammers posed as family members of their victims desperately in need of money, phony lotteries and phony job opportunities.
As I explained to you in 2017 anyone who  lost money due to scams that involved payments by Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017 had until May 31, 2018 to  file a claim to be reimbursed through funds derived from Western Union through the settlement.  Claims administrator Gilardi & Co. is overseeing the claims process.  Now the first round of checks totaling 153 million dollars is being sent to victims of the scams whose claim forms have been approved.

TIPS

If you were a victim of a scam in which funds were wired through Western Union between January 1, 2014 and January 19, 2017, you were eligible for reimbursement through the forfeited funds Western Union is paying to settle this matter.   All claims are verified by Gilardi & Co. before a check is sent.  There is no charge for filing a claim or receiving a check.   For specific information about the settlement go to the “FTC Scam Refund” tab in the middle of the first page of Scamicide.com and click through and then scroll down to the Western Union information.

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Scam of the day – March 22, 2020 – Utility Company Scams Continue

Spring is only a few days old, but utility scams, many of which are related to Winter heating bills continue to find victims.  Scams involving utility bills for electric, water or gas services have long been popular with scammers.  In one recently reported case a Rochester, New York woman who was called by scammers posing as Rochester Gas and Electric was convinced to pay scammers $2,100 through prepaid debit cards before she realized she had been scammed.  And she is not alone. Many people fall for scams such as this.  Targeted victims are called on the phone and told that their utility service will be terminated for non-payment unless they pay by credit card or prepaid cards over the phone. In another utility scam, potential victims receive an email that has a link to take them to their bill where they are prompted to provide personal information or make a payment through a phony website.  In another utility scam, people are called and told that they are eligible for a special promotion that will save them money.  They just need to provide personal information.

All of these are scams.   In the first, the targeted victim is coerced into giving their credit card or prepaid card information  to a scammer.  In the second, merely by clicking on the link to go to the phony bill, the victim ends up downloading keystroke logging malware or ransomware that can lead to identity theft or worse and in the third, there is no special promotion and the victim ends up providing personal information that leads to identity theft.

TIPS

You can never be sure when you get an email or a telephone call if it is really from a legitimate source.  Email addresses can be hacked to appear legitimate and even if you have Caller ID, a scammer can use a technique called “spoofing” to make it appear that the call is from a legitimate caller.  Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  Never provide personal or financial information to anyone in response to a telephone call, text message or email until you have independently confirmed that the communication was legitimate.  In the case of a utility bill, merely call the number on the back of your bill and you will be able to confirm whether or not the communication was legitimate.  Also, never click on links unless you have confirmed that they are legitimate.  The risk is too great.  It is also important to remember that no legitimate utility company will require you to immediately pay your bill over the phone with a prepaid card or a gift card.

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Scam of the day – March 21, 2020 – Government Coronavirus Emergency Aid Check Scams

While as I write today’s Scam of the day, Congress has not yet passed legislation authorizing checks or direct deposit payments to Americans to help them through the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, initial proposals provide for approximately 250 billion dollars to be sent to Americans to help them through this tough time. Although this is a very good thing for many people, it is certainly going to be exploited by scammers who have no conscience whatsoever.  What we will be seeing shortly  are scams where the scammers posing as government employees will be contacting you asking you to pay a fee in order to receive your government check.  The truth is that if and when the legislation is passed and checks start being sent out, they will not require the payment of a fee of any kind to be eligible to receive a check.  Other scammers will be posing as government officials and asking for your Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number in order for you to qualify for a payment.  The truth here is that the government will not ask for any of this information in order to process your check.  Finally, if you are contacted at this time by someone who tells you that they can get you an expedited check now, they are a scammer.  There are no expedited payments.

TIPS

Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  Whenever you are contacted on the phone, by email or text message, you cannot be sure who is really contacting you.  Even if your Caller ID indicates the call is from a legitimate federal agency such as the Treasury Department, it is easy for a scammer to “spoof” that number and make it appear on your Caller ID even if the call is coming from another number.  In regard to the soon to be approved checks to be sent to Americans to help them through the financial crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic, you will not have to make a payment or provide personal information in order to receive your check.  Once the legislation is approved, I will let you know exactly how the program will work so you can collect your money and avoid being scammed.  Please share this Scam of the day with your friends and family and let them know about http://www.scamicide.com so we can help more people avoid being scammed during this vulnerable time.

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Scam of the day – March 20, 2020 – Alex Jones Ordered to Stop Selling Phony Coronavirus Cures

It was just four days ago that I told you about  the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sending letters to seven companies, Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd., N-ergetics, GuruNanda, LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC and The Jim Bakker Show who the FTC and FDA have found to be touting products such as teas, essential oils and colloidal silver that they represent can treat or prevent coronavirus despite the fact that the World Health Organization has stated that there are ” no known effective therapeutics” available to prevent or treat the coronavirus.

According to FTC Chairman Joe Simons, “There is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus.  What we don’t need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims.  These warning letters are just the first step.  We’re prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.”

Now New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a cease and desist letter to radio host Alex Jones to stop advertising colloidal silver-infuse toothpastes, mouthwashes, creams and dietary supplements that James said Jones claimed would “kill the whole SARS-corona family at point blank range.”    However, the truth is, according to the National Institutes of Health, colloidal silver not only is not in anyway effective against the corona virus, but actually is dangerous to users health.  Following the cease and desist letter, Jones’ website posted a notice indicating that none of its products are for use in treating or preventing the coronavirus.

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 place to get reliable information is  the World Health Organization https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

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Scam of the day – March 19, 2020 – Wisconsin Woman Charged with Identity Theft Through Stealing Mail

Identity theft can be high tech, low tech or no tech.  Stealing mail from mailboxes for purposes of identity theft has been done by identity thieves for years.  Numerous times over the last eight years I have warned you about the danger of having your mail, such as credit card bills or bank statements stolen from your personal mailbox.  In addition, many people put themselves in great danger of identity theft by putting their outgoing mail in their mailbox and put up the red flag to alert the mail carrier that there is mail to be picked up.  Unfortunately, that is also an alert to identity thieves cruising the neighborhood of mail to be easily stolen. Recently, Shelby Bottensek was criminally charged in Wisconsin with a number of charges including mail theft and identity theft in regard to her stealing of mail from mail boxes in the city of Wisconsin Rapids.  Included in the stolen mail were credit cards, checks and cash.    It is not unusual for identity thieves to steal mail from U.S. Postal Service mailboxes as well as the mailboxes people have at their homes.

TIPS

In order to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft through your mailbox, you should make sure that your home mailbox is securely locked so that it is not easily accessed by your friendly neighborhood identity thief and when it comes to outgoing mail, don’t put it in your mailbox for your mail carrier to pick up regardless of how convenient it may be to do so.  Identity thieves, have been known to steal mail from the U.S. Postal Service mailboxes found on the corners of major streets so, in order to be safe, you should mail your outgoing mail at the post office.   It may seem like this is being a bit excessive when it comes to protecting your mail, but remember, even paranoids have enemies.

In 2017 the United States Postal Service began its Informed Delivery Program and I have been warning you since then about identity theft risks related to the program.  Under the Informed Delivery Program, you can sign up for a free service of the U.S. Postal Service that will send you an email each morning with images of the mail you will be receiving later that day.  This service was first done on a pilot basis in 2014 in parts of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. and became available to everyone three years later.   Identity theft through the stealing of mail such as credit card statements and bank statements from your mailbox is a significant problem and this new program both alerts you as to when to look for important mail, as well as let you know if such important mail has been stolen from your mailbox so you can respond more quickly. However, this program can also be exploited by criminals, who in sign up for the program in the names of their victims and are able to see when credit card statements and other mail containing personal information will be delivered so that they know when to steal the mail from the mail boxes of their victims and gain access to their credit cards.  While in order to set up an Informed Delivery account, you need to answer security questions, the information necessary to answer those questions can often be readily obtained online.

The best way to avoid this problem is to sign up for the Informed Delivery Program before an identity thief does so in your name.  Here is the link to go to sign up.

https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action

It is also important to note that if you do sign up for the service, you should use a unique and complex password to prevent identity thieves from hacking your account to let them know when important mail that they can exploit for identity theft purposes will be arriving to your home.

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