Scam of the Day

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Scam of the day – October 8, 2021 – It is Time for FAFSA Scams

High school students, college students and their parents are now filling out their 2022-2023 Free Application for Federal  Student Aid (FAFSA) forms to apply for college financial aid.  Many states and schools give out their financial aid funds on a first-come, first-served basis so it is important to complete your FAFSA form as soon as you can.  Anyone who has ever applied for a student loan for college expenses is familiar with FAFSA, the Free Application for Student Aid, which is operated by the United States Department of Education.  The office of Federal Student Aid is the largest issuer of financial aid to students in the country through grants, loans and work-study programs.  All colleges use the FAFSA form and it is a primary resource for any student or the parent of any student seeking to find money to cover college expenses.  The office of Federal Student Aid interactive website http://www.fafsa.ed.gov is a tremendously useful website.  In 2015 I told you about scammers who operated a company named Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. which set up a number of websites including FAFSA.com taking advantage of consumer confusion over the name and offering fee-based assistance to students filling out the FAFSA form.  According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), when students entered their payment information for certain financial advisory services, the company started billing them for annual renewing subscriptions at costs of between $67 and $85 per year without the students’ knowledge.   According to the  CFPB more than 100,000 students were cheated out of more than 5 million dollars.

Scammers often tell  you that they can get you more financial aid if you pay them a fee and they apply on your behalf, however, this rarely is the case and often these scammers will input false information that can get you in trouble.  Filling out the FAFSA form is free and and not so complicated that you can’t do it for yourself.  Also never provide your FAFSA ID to anyone.  Many scammers have used that information to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Before paying for help with the FAFSA form, it is always a good idea to take advantage of the free help found at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov the official FAFSA website of the federal government. Financial aid is a complex matter and students and their families should familiarize themselves with the information available on the real website of the office of Federal Student Aid in order to be an informed consumer.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide was recently cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of http://www.scamicide.com and type in your email address in the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”

Scam of the day – October 7, 2021 – Email Spoofing

A number of Scamicide readers have contacted me because they were concerned when they received a mailer-daemon notification in their email that would seem to indicate that their email had been used to send out spam emails.  These Scamicide readers were worried that their email accounts had been hacked which, if true, could lead to many problems.  Fortunately, the truth is that, in this instance, it is not likely that their email accounts were hacked, but rather that their email accounts had been “spoofed.”

Whenever you send an email it goes to a server named mailer-daemon which then forwards the email to other servers until the email reaches its destination.  If the delivery fails, such as because the email address to which it was sent is not a legitimate email address or the email address was mistyped, a mailer-daemon error message is sent back to what mailer-daemon thinks is the original sender.  However, merely because you receive a mailer-daemon error message does not mean that your email account was used to send the message.  More likely is that your email address was forged and used to disguise the true email address of the sender of the spam.  A good way to see if your email account was actually hacked is to check your sent folder.  If it does not indicate that you have sent the spam emails, it is likely that your account was “spoofed” or forged to make the message appear as if it came from your email address, so while it is distressing to see that your email address was used in a forged email containing spam, it does not pose a security threat to you and your email address was not hacked.

TIPS

There is not much you can do to protect yourself from having your email address spoofed, however there are some things you can do that may help and will make you feel better.  Use your security software to do a scan of your devices to check for malware.  Most likely none will be found.  Report the mailer-daemon spam as junk mail to your email provider and send the email to your spam filters which will help your email provider to help prevent this from happening in the future.  Finally, even though your sent folder does not indicate that you sent the spam email, you may wish to inform your contacts not to respond to such spam if they get an email that appears to come from you.  Do not respond or attempt to block the sender because that merely informs the scammer who sent the spam that your email address is a working account.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide was recently cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of http://www.scamicide.com and type in your email address in the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”

Scam of the day – October 6, 2021 – Bogus Debt Collector Permanently Banned from Collection Business

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 scammers knew were not owed.  Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) initiated Operation Corrupt Collector, a joint action by the FTC and state authorities to shut down illegal debt collectors.  In the Scam of the day for October 17, 2020 I told you that the FTC obtained a Temporary Restraining Order shutting down Critical Resolution Mediation LLC’s illegal debt collection operation while legal action continued against it.  According to the FTC, Critical Resolution Mediation LLC’s employees threatened consumers with arrest, wage garnishment, revocation of drivers’ licenses and lower credit scores if they did not pay debts claimed by Critical Resolution Mediation that in many instances were never ever owed, so-called phantom debts.  The FTC also alleged that Critical Resolution LLC illegally contacted consumers at their workplace and illegally notified family members about the phony debts.  Now the FTC and Critical Resolution Mediation settled the legal action.  Pursuant to the settlement, Critical Resolution Mediation is permanently banned from the debt collection industry and must pay a fine.

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.    In this case, Critical Resolution Mediation never supplied the validation notices as required by the 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.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide was recently cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of http://www.scamicide.com and type in your email address in the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”

Scam of the day – October 5, 2021 – Medicare Open Enrollment Scams

The annual open enrollment period for Medicare will begin on October 15th and continue until December 7th.  This is the only time during the year that people enrolled in Medicare can change their Medicare health plans, Medigap plans and prescription drug plans.  By now, people already enrolled in Medicare should have received an Annual Notice of Change from their health insurance providers describing any changes to their plans such as the dropping of particular drugs from their prescription drug plan.  If you are satisfied with your plans, you do not need to do anything.

Although the Medicare open enrollment period hasn’t even begun, already scammers are hard at work on a number of different scams.   Scammers and identity thieves view the open enrollment period as senior citizen hunting season as myriads of Medicare scams are common during this time.  Seniors may be contacted by someone purporting to be from their insurance company asking them to verify information. This is a common tactic of identity thieves trying to trick their victims into providing information. They also may be contacted by people claiming to have supplemental insurance programs that will save them thousands of dollars. Here too, you cannot be sure that they are legitimate when they contact you by phone, text message, email or even regular mail.

TIPS

Never give personal information to anyone who calls you on the phone because you can never be sure who is actually on the other end of the line.  Through a technique called “spoofing,” a scammer can manipulate your Caller ID and make it appear that the call is from the government or some legitimate company when in fact, it is from an identity thief who is eager to steal your money.  If you want to get information you can trust about what insurance plans are available to you and at what cost, merely go to the “Plan Finder” section of Medicare’s website http://www.medicare.gov.  If you want to speak with someone on the phone, call Medicare at its 24 hour hotline 1-800-MEDICARE.  Your Medicare options can be quite confusing.  Fortunately, the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) which is a national network of federally funded programs provides free Medicare counseling.  Here is a link to SHIP’s website https://www.shiptacenter.org/

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide was recently cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of http://www.scamicide.com and type in your email address in the tab that states “Sign up for this blog.”

Scam of the day – October 4, 2021 – Malicious Apps Steal Millions from Android Users

There seems to be a mobile app for just about anything you could possibly want to do and scammers are quite aware of this which is why scammers have turned to malware infected apps frequently in recent years.  Recently the mobile security firm Zimperium uncovered a massive app scam affecting more than ten million people around the world who downloaded any of 200 infected apps.  The scammers managed to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from their victims through this scam.

The infected apps when downloaded would cause pop-up ads and notifications of special offers and prizes to appear on the victim’s phone.  If the victim responded to these notifications and pop ups by providing their cell phone number as requested, they would unknowingly be signing up for a premium text message service that charged $35 or more monthly.

Perhaps most troubling about this scam was that the malware infected apps were available through the Google Play store.  While Google tries to monitor the Google Play store to keep scammers out, they certainly aren’t perfect.  Upon discovering the scam, Zimperium notified Google who promptly removed the infected apps from the Google Play store, however, this scam is a warning to all of us not to blindly trust that all of the apps found in legitimate app stores are safe.

TIPS

If you have an Android phone you should check to see if you downloaded any of the infected apps.  Here is a link to the Zimperium memorandum that lists all of the 200 infected apps

GriftHorse Android Trojan Steals Millions from Over 10 Million Victims Globally

It is important to limit your downloading of apps to legitimate sources such as the Apple App Store and Google Play to avoid malware infected apps. Before downloading any app, read the reviews carefully.  While scammers will write glowing phony reviews about their apps, their reviews are usually cursory and do not provide much information.   You can also go directly to a legitimate retailers website for information about any apps they may have for their products.  Also, you can do a search on Google or other search engines using the words “fake app” along with the name of the company whose app you are interested in to see if there have been reports of problems.   Finally, make sure that you have installed security software on your phone and that it is updated with the latest security patches.

For many years I have been warning you about the dangers of cramming.  Cramming is the name for putting unauthorized third party charges on to a consumer’s telephone bill without the knowledge or approval of the consumer.  There are many ways that these unauthorized charges make their way to a victim’s phone, sometimes, consumers unknowingly sign up for premium texting services that may be for things such as flirting tips, horoscopes or celebrity gossip.  Whatever the source of the charges, they are fraudulent and typically cost about $9.99 per month, but can be as high as 24.95 and continue to appear for months without end.

In order to protect yourself from cramming you should carefully review your phone bill  each month to identify if cramming charges appeared anywhere on your bill.  These charges often appear with vague descriptions so if you don’t recognize any charge, you should contact your provider to explain the charges to you.  Sometimes the charges appear in sections of your bill labeled “miscellaneous” or “third party charges.”  Receiving unsolicited text messages is often an indication that you are a victim of cramming so if you do receive such messages, check your phone bill carefully to see if these are related to unauthorized charges.  Most cell phone carriers will allow you to block charges from third parties for free, which is a good way to avoid cramming.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide has been cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is sign up for free using this link. https://scamicide.com/scam-of-the-day/

Scam of the day – October 3, 2021 – FTC Sending Refunds to Victims of Phony Training Program 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 is now sending refunds to the victims of the scam.  For more information about the refund program go the tab marked “FTC Scam Refunds”  in the middle of the first page of http://www.scamicide.com.

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.

 

TIPS

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.  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.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide has been cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is sign up for free using this link. https://scamicide.com/scam-of-the-day/

Scam of the day – October 1, 2021 – Do You Need to Buy Protection From Home Title Theft?

Earlier this year, the New York Attorney General announced a grant of $800,000 to a program to help protect homeowners from a variety of scams threatening them including deed fraud.  Deed fraud, which is also referred to as “property title theft” occurs when a criminal files a counterfeit deed to property owned by someone else and then either lives in the property or even sells the property to an unwary buyer.  Deed fraud most commonly occurs after a homeowner dies.  Enterprising criminals monitor the obituaries looking for homes owned by people recently deceased and then forge a deed to the property and record it in the local Registry of Deeds.

Indications that a home you may own has been subject to deed fraud often comes when you receive notices for unpaid real estate tax, water or mortgage bills.  Ironically, another indication of deed fraud is when you own a home and don’t receive your real estate tax bill because the scammer has changed the address to which the real estate tax bill is sent to cover his or her tracks.  Receiving a foreclosure notice when you don’t even have a mortgage is another indication that you have become a victim of deed fraud after the criminal has mortgaged your home by forging your signature.

Resolving deed fraud can be a timely process, but it is one that you will eventually be able to do successfully.

TIPS

In order to protect yourself from deed fraud you should regularly monitor your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and be on the lookout for bills related to your property.  Monitoring your credit report is something we all should do regularly anyway. In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, through April 20, 2021, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax will offer all U.S. consumers free weekly credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.

It also is helpful to regularly check with your local Registry of Deeds to confirm that no one has filed a forged deed to your property.  Most people can access their local Registry of Deeds online for free.

Finally, when you purchase your home, you are offered the option of buying an owner’s title insurance policy which will cover the cost of remedying deed fraud.  An owner’s title insurance policy is a good choice for any homeowner for a variety of reasons.  Lately I have seen and heard advertisements for special insurance that only covers deed fraud although generally all these policies offer is monitoring the Registry of Deeds for filings that relate to your home, which is something that you can do on your own quite simply for free.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide has been cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is sign up for free using this link. https://scamicide.com/scam-of-the-day/

Scam of the day – September 30, 2021 – UK Bank Vishing Scam

I have written many times about phishing emails from scammers posing as your bank who attempt to lure you into transferring money to them under the pretext of some emergency.  I also have written many times about smishing text messages where scammers use text messages that appear to come from your bank that attempt to lure you into transferring money to them or providing information that leads to your becoming a victim of identity theft.  I have also written on a few occasions about vishing scams in which scammers pose as your bank in a phishing phone call.   Vishing is a combination of the word “voice” and the word “phishing” and it refers to phishing scams done over the phone.    Today’s Scam of the day is about a vishing scam in the UK in which Merrick Anderson lost approximately 25,000 pounds to such a scam.  This scam is certainly not limited to the UK, but is occurring everywhere.

Merrick Anderson’s troubles began when he received a phone call from someone purporting to be from Lloyds Bank regarding problems with Anderson’s account.  Anderson’s Caller ID indicated that the call was indeed from Lloyds Bank.  Unfortunately, sophisticated scammers are able to trick Caller ID into indicating that the call indeed is coming from your bank through a technique called “spoofing” so you cannot trust your Caller ID to screen legitimate calls from those scammers.  The scammer convinced Anderson that in order to protect his account from more problems, he should transfer the money in his account to an account at Barclays.  Believing that it was an emergency, Anderson complied and promptly transferred approximately 25,000 pounds to the account of the scammers.  In less than an hour he realized what a mistake he had made and called Lloyds who was only able to recover 2 pounds.  Eventually the bank agreed to reimburse him for half of the money he lost in accordance with a UK voluntary industry code.  In most jurisdictions, Anderson would have no claim against his bank as the fault was entirely his own.

TIPS

Whenever you get a phone call, text message or email you cannot be sure who is really contacting you so you should never provide personal information, click on links or take any action in response to the communication unless you have absolutely confirmed that the communication was legitimate.

The words of Lloyds Bank in response to this scam should be heeded by everyone.  Their spokesman said, “It’s important to treat every email, message or call that you’re not expecting with caution, avoid clicking on links asking for your bank details and pay close attention to any warnings when banking online.  Your bank or a genuine company will never ask you to move money to a different account — if anyone does, it’s definitely a scam, no matter how genuine it may appear.”

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide has been cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is sign up for free using this link. https://scamicide.com/scam-of-the-day/

Scam of the day – September 29, 2021 – Women’s Leadership Summit Scam

A number of legitimate colleges, universities and private companies put on conferences using the name “Women’s Leadership Summit.”  However, scammers have recently been using this name to scam women as is being reported by the Better Business Bureau.  The scam starts when you receive an email inviting you to attend the phony conference.  The email purports to have been sent by a woman who states that she saw your LinkedIn profile and thought that you would be a perfect fit for the conference.  People responding to the email are sent a link to a professional appearing website that provides details about the non-existent conference including the list of high profile speakers.  Of course, none of this is true.  There is no conference and the high profile women noted in the website as speakers have nothing to do with the scam or the phony conference.  You are prompted to sign up for the conference and provide your credit card information.  Interestingly, in the version of this scam being reported on by the BBB while you are asked for your credit card information, nowhere in the website is there an indication of the price of attendance.  Anyone providing their credit card information soon learns that the conference is a scam and their credit card is used to run up fraudulent purchases.

TIPS

As I often say, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”  Merely because you receive an invitation to sign up for a conference does not mean that the conference is legitimate.  In the particular “Women’s Leadership Summit” email described by the BBB, the name of a real person involved with similar legitimate conferences is used, however, you can’t be sure as to whether that is the person actually sending you the email.  In some instances, scammer will use email addresses to send the email that have nothing to do with the name of the real person they are posing as which is an indication that this is a scam.

As I indicated earlier, the name “Women’s Leadership Summit” is used by many legitimate organizations to put on legitimate conferences so merely because a legitimate name is used does not mean that the conference about which you are contacted is legitimate.  Never provide your credit card information in response to any email or text message unless you have absolutely confirmed that the sender and the organization are legitimate.  In this case, no legitimate conference would ever ask you to submit credit card information without indicating the cost of attending the conference.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide has been cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of http://www.scamicide.com and type in your email address where it states “Sign up for this blog.”

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