Scam of the Day

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Scam of the day – November 26, 2022 – The Secret Sister Scam

Fans of the old horror movie Poltergeist 2 remember the classic line “They’re back” and so it is with the classic Secret Sister scam which returns each holiday season.   I first reported to you about this scam in 2015. It seems harmless enough when you see it come up in your email or on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter where it has increasingly been found lately.  It is often titled the “Secret Sister Gift Exchange.”   Commonly it provides you with a list of six people and you are told to send a gift worth at least ten dollars to the first person on the list, remove that person’s name from the list, move the second person on the list to the first position, add your name to the end of the list and then send the list to six of your friends.  In theory, you will receive thirty-six gifts for your small contribution of ten dollars.

So where is the harm?

First of all, it is a blatantly illegal chain letter and violates Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1302.  In addition, like all chain letters, ultimately, it is destined to fail because it is a pyramid scheme where ultimately we run out of people on the planet.  In one particular version of this illegal chain letter, you are required to provide personal information that can lead you to become more vulnerable to scams and identity theft schemes.

Holiday pyramid schemes come in a wide variety of disguises including exchanging bottles of wine and the Secret Santa Dog scam where you are lured into sending a gift to your “secret dog,” but they all are just scams that entice you into sending a gift or money to scammers while participating in an illegal pyramid scheme.


Avoid all chain letters regardless of the guise under which you receive them.  They are illegal.  In addition, although in some instances these chain letters are turning up on Facebook pages, it is a violation of your Facebook terms of agreement, so you potentially face the loss of your Facebook account if you participate in the scheme.

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Scam of the day – November 25, 2022 – Business Opportunity Scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sued DK Automation, LLC and its principals, Kevin David Hulse and David Arnett alleging they promised huge returns to trick people into buying business opportunities and training programs through which they said they would teach you how to operate fantastically profitable stores on Amazon.  According to the FTC, those claims were deceptive or outright lies and most people who bought the programs never made any profit and often lost money.  According to the FTC DK Automation also sold bogus cryptocurrency investment training programs for as much as $85,000 that also were worthless.


The sale of business opportunities is regulated by the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule which requires the sellers of business opportunities to provide a one-page disclosure document outlining important facts about the offering including informing you about any legal actions in which the sellers have been involved. The disclosure also has to provide you with details as to any refund policy and provide a list of references. Additionally, as is always the case with these types of scams, if they make claims about how much money you can earn through their scheme, they must provide you with an Earnings Claim Statement that indicates in detail the specifics of those claims and the opportunity to see written proof of the claims.

Before considering any kind of business opportunity, you should have a lawyer review these required disclosures and if the person offering you the business opportunity does not provide these documents, you should consider that a red flag that this is a scam. You also should investigate the people behind the offering as well as the particular type of business opportunity.

You also can do a Google or other search engine search of any company from which you are considering making a purchase in which you type in the company’s name along with the words “scam” or “complaints” and see what you come up with.

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Scam of the day – November 24, 2022 – FBI Impersonation Scam

Impostor scams have long been among the most lucrative for scammers.  While there are many variations of this scam, the most common variations have involved scammers calling their intended victims on the telephone posing as some governmental agency such as the, FBI, IRS or the Social Security Administration.  The scammer then, under a wide variety of pretenses, demands an immediate payment by gift cards, credit card or wired funds. Being asked to pay by gift cards is a definite indication that the call is a scam since no governmental agency requests or accepts payments by gift cards.   Alternatively, the scammer demands the victim supply the phony governmental agent with personal information such as your Social Security number which will then be used for identity theft purposes.

Recently the FBI issued a warning about scam phone calls in which the scammer poses as an FBI agent demanding payment for a legal judgment they claim has been entered against you.  In some of these calls, the scammer threatens arrest if you do not make immediate payment.


It is easy to recognize one of these impersonation scams.  Neither the FBI, IRS or SSA will initiate communication with you by a phone call and they will never threaten you with arrest for non-payment of a claim.  Neither does any government agency accept gift cards or cryptocurrency payments.

As I have often reminded you, through the simple technique of “spoofing” it is very easy for a scammer to manipulate your Caller ID to make a call coming to you appear legitimate when it is not.  Therefore you can never truly trust your Caller ID.  Trust me, you can’t trust anyone. Even though your Caller ID may indicate that the call is coming from the FBI, the IRS or some other government agency the call is coming from a scammer.

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Scam of the day – November 23, 2022 – FTX Phishing Scams

Up until a few days ago, FTX was a very popular cryptocurrency exchange that attracted an estimated million investors.  It was touted on television commercials by many celebrities including Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, Stephen Curry, Shacquille O’Neal, Naomi Osaka and even Larry David in a Super Bowl commercial earlier this year.  Unfortunately, FTX recently filed for bankruptcy and is being investigated for numerous fraud charges including accusations that it was nothing more than a Ponzi scam.

Desperate investors are now being targeted through emails and phony Department of Justice websites that claim that if they just pay some legal fees, the FTC customers would be able to withdraw all of their funds.  This is nothing more than a scam intended to lure people into paying for worthless services.  The filing of bankruptcy by FTX froze their assets and customers are not able to access their accounts at this time.


As I have mentioned many times previously, you should never invest in anything that you do not fully understand.  Cryptocurrency scams quite often involve complicated language and investment terms that is purposefully unclear in an effort to confuse potential investors from understanding the real facts.  You also should not invest in anything without investigating the people offering the investments.  You can go to to learn about the licensing and registration status of someone offering to sell you investments.   In addition, as always, if the investment sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Facebook for a time banned all advertisements promoting cryptocurrencies due to the plethora of cryptocurrency scams, but has reversed this position and now does accept ads for cryptocurrencies. Some of the things to be on the lookout for in regard to cryptocurrency scams are promises of high, guaranteed returns on your investment, false claims of being SEC compliant, allowing you to invest using your credit card and pump and dump scams.

As for websites claiming to be affiliated with the United States Justice Department promising to be able to return your money after the payment of “legal fees” they are completely bogus.  There is no charge to creditors of bankruptcies to file claims.  As for being able to determine if a website is legitimate or not, the Google Safe Browsing Transparency Report is a terrific free service where you can type in the URL and learn if Google’s research indicates it is a scam.  Here is a link to it.

You can also use which is a free service that will tell you who owns a particular URL and how long it has been in service.  If your Department of Justice website has only been around six months and is owned by someone in Nigeria, it certainly is a scam.  Here is a link to Whois

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Scam of the day – November 22, 2022 – FTC Refunding Money to Victims of Phantom Debt Collector

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. In 2018 I told you that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New York Attorney General brought legal action against Hylan Asset Management and its owners Andrew Shaevel and Jon E. Purizhansky alleging that they attempted to collect on phantom, non-existent debts even after some of the people they contacted provided records proving they did not owe the money alleged.  The case was settled in 2019.  As a condition of the settlement, the defendants were permanently banned from the debt collection business and agreed to pay a fine which was used to refund money lost by victims of the scam.  Payments first went out to the victims in October of 2021 and now a second round of checks is being sent to victims of the scam.

For more information about this refund program go to the tab in the middle of the Scamicide home page entitled “FTC Scam Refunds.”  It is important to note that there is never a charge for obtaining a refund through the FTC or any of its refund administrators.  Anyone who asks for such a payment is just another scammer.


Subject to strict federal laws, legitimate debt collectors are permitted to call debtors, however, the law prohibits them from 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 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 – November 21, 2022 – Thanksgiving E Greeting Card Scam

Thanksgiving is just three days away and I want to wish everyone a happy and scam-free Thanksgiving to everyone.

Electronic greeting cards have become very popular and with good reason.  Even if you don’t remember a birthday or delay sending a holiday card until the last minute, you can send an electronic greeting card, often for free, and have it delivered immediately.  Many electronic greeting cards are quite creative with videos and music, as well.  But, unfortunately, you can always count on scam artists and identity thieves to try to spoil anything and electronic greeting cards are no exception.  The scam starts when you get a phony electronic greeting card that requires you to click on a link to read the card.  If you click on one of these phony greeting cards, you may end up downloading a keystroke logging malware program that will steal all of the information from your computer and end up with you becoming a victim of identity theft or alternatively you may download dangerous malware such as ransomware.


One of the first things to notice when you receive an e greeting card is who is indicated as the person sending the card.  If it states that the card is being sent by “a friend” or “an admirer,” you can be pretty sure that it is a phony card.  However, even if the card uses the name of someone you know, it still is risky to open the card without confirming with an email or a phone call that your friend actually did send you the card. Remember, even paranoids have enemies.  Scammers may pick a common name to use as the sender or may even have researched who your friends and family are.

It is also important to keep your security software including anti-virus software and anti-malware software installed and up to date at all times which can help if you unwittingly download malware.  However, it is important to remember that the most up to date security software is always at least thirty days behind the latest strains of malware often referred to as those that exploit “zero day defects.”

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Scam of the day – November 20, 2022 – FTC Sending Refunds to Victims of Credit Card Stacking Scam

In the Scam of the day for February 2, 2021 I told you about that the Federal Trade Commission had settled claims against Seed Consulting LLC after the FTC had filed a complaint against the company for charging consumers between $3,000 and $4,000 merely to apply on their behalf for multiple credit cards with total credit lines of more than $50,000, a practice referred to as “credit card stacking.”  The credit cards were then used to pay for expensive and generally useless training programs that purported to train aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to start businesses or to become successful real estate investors.

Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, Seed Consulting LLC paid 2.1 million dollars to the FTC which in September of 2021 sent refunds to the victims of the scam.  Now because there is still undistributed funds, the FTC is sending second checks to victims of the scam who already had received checks in 2021.  For more information about the refund program go the tab marked “FTC Scam Refunds”  in the middle of the first page of

According to Andrew Smith of the FTC, “Seed obtained credit cards for consumers by using inflated income, and then shared the credit limits with promoters of bogus real estate seminars who tricked consumers into maxing out the cards to pay for the seminar ‘tuition.'”  Many of these training companies had already been charged by the FTC with operating deceptive training schemes.  Most consumers who paid for these training programs earned little if anything from the programs and ended up with substantial credit card debt and lower credit scores.



You should always be wary of any company that charges a significant fee merely to assist you in obtaining credit cards.  You don’t need the help of third parties to whom you must pay a fee to apply for credit cards on your behalf.  In particular, any company that encourages you to falsely inflate your income on credit card applications should be avoided.

ftc As for training programs to teach you how to start a business or invest in real estate, there are plenty of free or low cost materials you can get that can be quite helpful.  Always research any such business coaching program before purchasing it.  A simple way to research such companies is to do to Google or other search engine search with the name of the company and the word “scam” and see what comes up.

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Scam of the day – November 19, 2022 – Early Alert About Black Friday Scams

While Thanksgiving is still five days away, many people already have their hearts and minds focused on one of the biggest shopping days of the year – Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.  Black Friday is the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season although I have been seeing holiday shopping displays since Halloween. The fact that Black Friday is such a huge shopping day is not lost on scammers who will be as pervasive as ever. Over the next few weeks, I will be focusing the Scams of the day on the many holiday season scams about which we should all be aware.

If you are shopping in a brick and mortar store Friday or any other day throughout the year, you should use a credit card rather than a debit card because of the possibility of skimmers which are small devices being used by criminals working as sales clerks that will capture your credit card number which will then be used to make fraudulent purchases. Whenever possible you should use your chip credit card because it is not susceptible to skimmers, however, some retailers still don’t use chip technology so your credit card’s vulnerable magnetic strip will be used to process the purchase which makes it more susceptible to being hacked by a criminal.  As for using your credit card rather than your debit card, it is important to remember that while your liability for fraudulent use of your credit card is limited by federal law to no more than $50, your liability for fraudulent use of your debit card which is tied to  your bank account is unlimited if you do not promptly discover and report the fraud which is why you should always use your credit card for shopping rather than your debit card.

I will be discussing safe practices for online shopping in a future Scam of the day, but in the last couple of years the problem of what the FBI calls E-skimming has become more serious.  E-skimming  occurs when criminals infect the websites of numerous retailers in a manner that they are able to capture your credit card or debit card information when you enter it into the website.  It is important to note that while your chip card will protect you if you use your chip card to make purchases at a brick and mortar store that has updated its credit card processing equipment to handle chip credit cards, you cannot use your chip for online purchases.  However, as I indicated in the previous paragraph, the most you are responsible for if your credit card is used fraudulently is $50 and quite frankly I have never seen a credit card company even charge its customers that amount.


For the reasons discussed above, try to use your credit card as a chip card whenever possible and always watch your credit card when it is being processed at a brick and mortar store. Don’t let it out of your sight because that is when you run the risk of a rogue clerk running it through a portable skimmer, which will steal the number of your card. Refrain from using your debit card except as an ATM card. Finally, in regard to the E-skimming threat, you should regularly monitor your credit card statement online rather than waiting for a monthly paper bill to be delivered to you so that if your credit card was compromised and your data stolen, you will be able to discover and report the problem to your credit card issuer quickly and avoid more problems.

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Scam of the day – November 18, 2022 – Letters from Santa Claus Scam

While it is not even Thanksgiving yet, many people have turned their attention to Christmas.  In fact, it was not unusual to see Christmas decorations in stores prior to Halloween.  One holiday scam that rarely gets discussed relates to letters from Santa Claus.  Yes, Virginia, even Santa Claus may scam you.

A number of phony websites and posts on social media are offering personalized letters from Santa Claus that you can purchase for your children. Unfortunately, while the spirit of Santa Claus is real, many of the companies offering these letters from Santa are not and all that you end up doing is turning over your credit card number to a scammer who then uses it to make fraudulent purchases while you receive no letter from Santa Claus or even the Grinch.  There are some legitimate companies offering letters from Santa for a fee, but it is important to check them out thoroughly before hiring their services. An easy first step to do that is to merely Google the name of the company with the word “scam” and see what comes up.


If you are interested in a free letter to Santa for your child, you can use the United States Postal Service’s Letters from Santa program which you can reach using this link

All you need to do is have your child write a letter to Santa Claus. Then write your own response from Santa Claus and mail both letters along with an envelope with the return address of “Santa, North Pole” and mail it to “North Pole Postmark Postmaster, 4141 Postmark Dr., Anchorage Alaska 99530-9998 and your child will get a personalized letter from Santa with a North Pole postmark at no cost to you. The deadline this year for receipt of the letters to Santa is December 10th. The only cost is your postage.

Also, as a reminder, whenever you order anything online (or in a brick and mortar store for that matter) you should use your credit card rather than your debit card because the law provides you with much more protection from fraud if you use your credit card.

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Scam of the day – November 17, 2022 – FBI and District Attorney Warn About Sextortion Scam

I have been warning you about sextortion scams for seven years, but it is important to alert parents about a new development in this scam. Generally, sextortion scam begins with an email in which you are told that your computer and web cam have been hacked and that the scammers have video of you watching porn online.  In the email, the scammer threatens to send the videos to people on his contact list unless you pay a ransom in Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency.

Earlier this year, the FBI warned parents about adult predators, often posing as young girls, contacting teenage boys on a variety of online platforms such as games or social media and then convincing the teenage boys to engage in explicit sexual activity while unbeknownst to the teenaged boy, the predator is recording it.  The scammer then reveals to the teenager that the scammer has the recording and threatens to post it online unless a substantial payment is made.  More recently the Montgomery County Alabama District Attorney issued a similar warning after observing an increase in incidents.


The FBI advises parents to tell their children to be very careful as to what they share online.  Social media accounts which are open to everyone provide predators and scammers with a lot of information that the scammers can use to lure people into scams.  Discuss the appropriate privacy settings with your children for all of their accounts.

The FBI also tells parents to remind their children that they can never be sure as to who they are communicating with online and they should be particularly skeptical if they meet someone on a game or app who then asks to speak with them on a different platform.

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