The Marriott hotel chain confirmed that it has suffered yet another data breach, this one at its BWI Airport Marriott Hotel in Maryland with between 300 and 400 guests at the hotel having their credit card information stolen along with personal information of the hotels employees as well.
According to AAA the average price for a gallon of gas in the United States today is $4.82 and in many states, the price is even higher. It therefore comes as no surprise that consumers are desperate to get some relief from these high prices and scammers are there, as you might expect, to add to your woes. Recognizing the desire for relief from high gas prices, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says scammers are calling, texting and emailing people posing as government representatives of the federal Fuel Relief Program offering assistance. All you need do, they tell you, is provide some personal and financial information in order to be eligible for the program. Unfortunately, there is no such program and if you provide your personal or financial information to the scammer, you will end up becoming a victim of identity theft.
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. The FTC has indicated that last year consumers lost 185 million dollars to sweepstakes and lottery scams
Many scammers send out emails or text messages purportedly from the IRS or any of a number of state and federal agencies in which they require you to provide personal information under the guise of some emergency. They do this because if they can frighten you enough to act during the holiday in some instances you will be unable to confirm with the real entity as to whether the communication is legitimate because all of these entities will be closed on the Fourth of July. If you provide the requested information, it will be used against you to make you a victim of identity theft.
According to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research more than 1.25 million children became victims of identity theft last year and the true number is probably much greater because in many instances child identity theft is not discovered until the child reaches age 18. Identity thieves steal the identity of a child and then run up large debts using the credit of the child, who generally does not become aware that his or her identity has been stolen until he or she reaches older teen years when the teenager might first apply for a car loan or financial aid for college.
Earlier this week, the FTC sued Walmart alleging that for years the company was complicit with scammers who used Walmart money transfer wire services to receive payment for a multitude of scams including lottery scams and the grandparent scam. According to the FTC, between 2013 and 2018, Walmart customers lost between 197 million dollars and 1.3 billion dollars to scams by which payments were made to scammers by way of Walmart money transfer services. For its part, while Walmart did not actively participate in the scams, the FTC alleges that they turned a blind eye to such scams, allowing suspicious transfers and having poor policies to prevent such transfers from occurring all the while collecting millions of dollars in fees for the use of their money transfer services.
Recently the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the New York Attorney General settled its claims against Vantage Point, a company that operated an illegal debt collection business. The FTC is now refunding money to the victims of the scam.
For the last year multiple Facebook accounts have posted posts like the one reproduced below with a photo of comedian Ellen DeGeneres (not Ellen Degeeneress, as the scammers refer to her in the posts) promising to pay $750 to random winners. The scam’s goal is to get people to either provide personal information that will be used to make them victims of identity theft or to click on links that will download dangerous malware such as ransomware or keystroke logging malware that can lead to identity theft.
Many people are reporting receiving text messages that appear to come from UPS or Federal Express indicating that it is necessary for you to update your delivery preferences. In order to do so you are asked to click on a link and provide personal information. Unfortunately, if you click on the link one of two things will happen. Either you will be taken to a page where you provide your personal information to a criminal who will use the information to make you a victim of identity theft or you will download dangerous malware, such as ransomware, merely by clicking on the link.
One Amazon related scam starts with an automated phone call that tells you that a purchase has been made on your Amazon account that appears to be fraudulent. You are then prompted to press 1 on your phone to speak with an Amazon representative to discuss the apparent fraudulent charge on your account. If you fall for the scam and press 1 to speak with an Amazon representative, you will actually be speaking with a scammer posing as an Amazon representative who will ask you to confirm the credit card number attached to your Amazon account. Anyone providing that information will soon become a victim of identity theft and credit card fraud.
Trojan subscribers are malicious code that cybercriminals add to legitimate apps and then upload them to app stores under a different name. The apps can be for a variety of purposes, such as monitoring blood pressure or scanning documents. When someone downloads one of these infected apps, he or she doesn’t realize that the Trojan subscriber will automatically subscribe to a paid service without the person who downloaded the app being aware of it. Generally, the cybercriminals who create and use Trojan subscribers get paid a commission on each new subscription to a paid service.
While some of the postings described above urging people to click on links or share the posting are legitimate, unfortunately often they are not. Often they are done to take advantage of Facebook’s algorithms that value the popularity measured by likes and shares which causes the posts to appear on the Facebook pages of more people. Although the original content liked or shared may appear sincere or entertaining, the scammers who use this technique, which is called “farming,” then are able to change the content of the post to something entirely different from what was originally shared or liked. This is done for purposes of sending advertising or gathering marketing information, but, at its worst, it also can be used to send malware infected content such as keystroke logging malware that can steal personal information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.
One of the best ways of determining if you are involved with a scam is how the scammer requests payment. If they ask for payment through a gift card, it is definitely a scam. No legitimate business transaction asks for payment by gift cards. No governmental agency accepts gift cards as payments.
The midterm elections are five months away and candidates around the country are actively fund raising. Scammers are taking advantage of the public’s interest in the elections to make robocalls in which they pose as candidates asking for donations. This particular scam can easily seem legitimate. Caller ID can be tricked through a technique called “spoofing” to make it appear to your Caller ID as if the call is coming from a candidate or some political organization and recordings of the candidate can also be incorporated into the call to make the call appear more legitimate.
One important piece of information that many people don’t realize should be kept as private as possible is their cell phone number. These days your cell phone number is tied to so much of what we do. When a criminal knows your cell phone number, he or she can leverage that number through commonly available legal databases such as White Pages Premium and learn information such as your current address, past addresses, the names of your family members and more.
Clever scam artists are increasingly setting up phony websites that appear to be for customer service or tech support of many of the companies with which we do business. Often they either purchase an ad to appear at the top of a search engine search or they manipulate the algorithms used by Google and other search engines to make their phony customer service number appear high on a search. They also purchase telephone numbers that are a single digit off of the legitimate phone numbers for many companies’ tech support or customer support in order to take advantage of common consumer misdials. Compounding the problem is the fact that many companies, particularly social media companies, do not provide a customer service telephone number to call and speak to a real person about your problem. They only provide online support.
Identity thieves send emails purporting to contain a link to an electronic Father’s Day card, but instead of an electronic greeting card, what they actually are sending is malware that becomes downloaded when the victim clicks on the link. A common type of malware sent by criminals is keystroke logging malware enables an identity thief to steal personal information from the victim’s computer that can be used for purposes of identity theft. In other instances, the malware is ransomware which will encrypt all of your data which the hacker threatens to destroy unless you pay a cryptocurrency ransom.
In the Scam of the day for March 10, 2021 I told you that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled charges it brought against fraudulent payday lenders who used the names Harvest Moon Financial, Gentle Breeze Online and Green Stream Lending who the FTC alleged had continued to withdraw millions of dollars in payments from their customers’ bank accounts long after their original loans and repayment costs had been paid. As a part of the settlement any of the defendants’ customers who had paid the original amount of their loan and one finance charge would have the rest of their debt deemed paid in full. Now, more than a year later, the FTC is sending checks to victims of the scam. These checks should be cashed within 90 days as indicated on the checks
Identity theft can take many different forms and one about which most people are unaware is criminal identity theft. Criminal identity theft occurs when someone steals your identity and then commits crimes using your name and Social Security number. The problems encountered by someone whose identity has been stolen by a criminal who then commits crimes in the name of the identity theft victim are tremendous. Victims of criminal identity theft have been arrested for crimes they never committed and often have had difficulty having the crimes, committed by someone who stole their identity, removed from their records. A faulty criminal record can affect your ability to get a job or obtain various benefits.
Scammers are big fans of gift cards because they are easy to purchase, easy to send to the scammer and impossible to trace to the scammer. It is not even necessary for the scammer to be in possession of the actual gift card to use it. Sending the gift card numbers or taking a picture on your phone and transmitting it to the scammer is sufficient for the scammer to use the gift card to buy things that can then be sold and converted into cash.
Pursuant to a settlement with Quantum Wellness Botanical Institute LLC, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is sending checks to people who were scammed by Quantum in its sales of an anti-aging “wonder” pill called ReJuvenation that Quantum claimed would reverse the aging process and cure a variety of diseases including heart disease, blindness, brain damage, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and more. ReJuvenation was marketed using false and deceptive statements without any scientific evidence to support their claims.
The Justice Department recently announced that through collaborative efforts with law enforcement authorities in Cyprus and Latvia that it had shut down a series of criminal websites operating on the Dark Web, that part of the Internet where cybercriminals sell goods and services. SSNDOB Marketplace operated a series of websites that had sold stolen personal information of 24 million Americans including names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers to other criminals who used this information for identity theft.
Many older Americans are receiving emails or phone calls purporting to be from Medicare either offering various health services or new Medicare cards with microchips. All the targeted victim has to do is merely verify their Medicare number. And while your Medicare number is no longer your Social Security number, giving it to an identity thief can cause you substantial problems when you try to access Medicare as well as cost the American taxpayers millions of dollars.
In 2020 the FTC sued Digital Income System as one of fifty lawsuits it filed as a result of a joint operation with state and federal law enforcement agencies called Operation Income Illusion. Digital Income Solutions sold memberships in its programs by misrepresenting the nature of their programs and the money that their victims were likely to earn.
Data breaches have become a part of every day life and their numbers continue to increase. In the first three months of 2022 alone there were 404 major data breaches. The latest major data breach involves Shields Health Care Group which provides imaging and ambulatory surgical services to many health care facilities. Shields recently reported that it had been hacked between March 7, 2022 and March 21, 2022 in a data breach that compromised the data of 2 million people and included names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other sensitive information that could easily lead to identity theft. https://shields.com/notice-of-data-security-incident/
Today’s Scam of the day involves another legal action brought by the FTC regarding a different credit repair scammer, Financial Education Services. The FTC initiated legal action against Financial Education Services and its owners accusing them of scamming their victims out of more than 213 million dollars. While the lawsuit continues in court, the FTC did succeed in getting a judge to grant a temporary restraining order shutting down the operation of the company while the lawsuit continues.
Now that Spring is here, we are starting to see a common Spring scam dealing with driveway repair. This scam generally starts with the appearance of a paving contractor at your doorstep who informs you that he has been doing paving for other people in your town and has some asphalt left over which he says he can use to seal and pave your driveway at a reduced cost. Upon being hired, the work is either never done and you are out your deposit or the work is done in a quick and shoddy manner. Either way, you lose.
In October of 2019 I told you that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled its legal action against AdvoCare International and its former CEO who under the terms of the settlement are banned from operating multilevel marketing businesses and were ordered to pay more than 149 million dollars to the FTC to be refunded to consumers. Now more than two years later, the FTC is refunding the money to victims of the scam.
Brian Wedgeworth pleaded guilty recently to perpetrating a romance scam in which he scammed more than 30 women out of more than 1.3 million dollars. Wedgeworth posed as a doctor on various online dating services. Once he gained their confidence he manipulated them into sending him money and giving him access to their bank accounts. He will be sentenced August 8th
In its lawsuit the FTC alleges The Randos and their company illegally charged consumers thousands of dollars for worthless and illegal credit repair services including filing false identity theft reports. At the FTC’s request the Florida Federal District Court issued a temporary restraining order halting their operation and freezing their assets. They also charged their customers upfront fees of thousands of dollars for their credit repair services which violates the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA),
Recently the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled a complaint brought by it against a number of VoIP providers including VoIP Terminator, Inc and BL Marketing, Inc. for transmitting millions of illegal robocalls, many of which used spoofing to make the calls appear as if they were coming from legitimate sources. These calls were used to perpetrate a variety of scams including many related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants are prohibited from doing robocalls and must screen its VoIP customers to identify suspected scammers.
Recently the U.S. Education Department announced that it would forgive 5.8 billion dollars of federal student loans owed by 560,000 borrowers who attended Corinthian Colleges prior to its collapse into bankruptcy in 2015. Corinthian Colleges operated under its Everest and WyoTech Brands in more than twenty states. Corinthian Colleges had been found guilty in various legal actions of misrepresenting their job placement rates, illegally using U.S. military seals in advertisements and promoting degree programs that the schools didn’t even offer.
Recently Henry Perez was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for using SIM swapping to take over the accounts of hundreds of cell phone users. Once he had taken over the accounts, Perez purchased iPhones, iPads and AirPods worth more than $530,000 and charged them to his victims’ accounts.
If today’s Scam of the day seems familiar, it should to regular Scamicide readers because it is just a slight variation on the Scam of the day for May 24th dealing with the same type of scam. About the only difference was that the May 24th Scam of the day dealt with free Southwest Airlines tickets and this one uses a free Toyota 4Runner SR5 as the hook. More than1.3 million people responded to the Facebook post by commenting “Done” in response to the post which appeared on an obviously non-official Toyota Facebook page.
Recently the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Legacy Cremation Services, LLC for false and deceptive advertising regarding their funeral services including advertising low prices on its website and then charging its customers considerably more for their services, and, according to the FTC even threatening or refusing to return cremated remains until they were paid the higher prices.
As we honor our veterans today on Memorial Day, it is important to remember that scammers take Memorial Day as just another opportunity to scam veterans and others. In the case of Memorial Day, you can expect to be solicited by scammers by phone (remember legitimate charities can call you by phone even if you have enrolled in the Do Not Call List because it exempts charities), email or letters asking for your money for various veterans causes or charitable ventures tied to Memorial Day.
Millions of people still use AOL. One reason for this is that you get greater email privacy when compared to some other email carriers. Due to its popularity, scammers and identity thieves often send out phishing emails that appear to come from AOL, such as the one reproduced below that was sent to me by a Scamicide reader. If you click on the link in the email where it reads “HERE” one of two things can occur and both are bad. Either you will end up providing personal information to an identity thief or you will, merely by clicking on the link, download dangerous malware such as ransomware on to your phone, computer or other device.
Recently Desmond Fodje Bobga, of Cameroon was convicted of operating a puppy scam and sentenced to 21 months in federal prison. Typical of puppy scammers, Bobga lured his victims in through a website he created in which he posted photos of dogs he found online.
Recently the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the New York Attorney General settled its claims against a debt collection organization and its owners. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants, who operated under different names including JPL Recovery Solutions are barred from doing debt collection and must pay4 million dollars in penalties.
Human tragedies such as the murders of at least 19 students and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas bring out the best charitable impulses of many people, but unfortunately, they also bring out the worst impulses in scammers who use tragedies such as this to solicit contributions to phony charities and GoFundMe campaigns.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently settled its lawsuit against Warrior Trading, a company that put on “free” webinars that promised to dhow you “a quick and simple way to get your dream of day-trading success going.” Warrior Trading promised that you could make $100,000 or more in less than 45 days. While the initial webinar was free, people taking the webinar were lured into paying thousands for its worthless trading programs.
More than a million people were fooled by a scam offering free tickets on Southwest Airlines. The scam originated on a phony Facebook page of “Southwest Air Fans” and was shared by many people. The Facebook post indicated that Southwest was celebrating its 69th anniversary by giving away free tickets to anyone who responded to the email. However, if you did respond to the email you were prompted to answer endless surveys. However, there are no free tickets and if you complete the survey, you turn over information to a scammer who can use it to make you a victim of identity theft.
Peer to Peer Payment Payment Service (P2P) Zelle is used by many people to quickly and conveniently send money electronically from your credit card or bank account. Sending money through Zelle only requires you to enter the recipient’s phone number or email address. Zelle is an app created by the company Early Warning Services (EWS) which is owned by seven of the biggest banks in the United States including Bank of America and Capital One. Hundreds of banks and credit unions offer Zelle as a service. Unfortunately, Zelle has proven to be easily exploited by scammers and unlike scams targeting your credit cards directly, you may not have as much protection under the law to get your money back if you do get scammed. In addition to scammers luring their victims to pay for worthless items through Zelle, scammers are also sending phishing emails and text messages in which they lure their victims into providing their Zelle usernames, passwords and PINs to take over their victims’ bank accounts through their Zelle accounts.
The scam usually starts with a listing that looks quite legitimate and there is a good reason for that. The listing is often a real on-line listing that has been copied by the scammer who merely puts in his or her name and contact information. The price is usually very low which attracts a lot of potential renters.
Some scams are just so simple and effective that they remind us why scam artists are indeed the only criminals we refer to as artists. An old scam that is still being used effectively by scammers involves a flyer under your door in your hotel or motel room that purportedly is an advertisement for a local pizza parlor or in the recent case of one family a phony room service menu slid under the door. The flyer gives a telephone number for the pizza parlor which conveniently delivers to your room or, again in this particular case the phone number for the hotel’s room service.
Yesterday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted long overdue rules that will require that gateway providers which are the relatively small group of telecom providers that help transmit calls that originate out of the country VoIP technology into the American telephone network to register with the FCC and adopt protocols to reduce illegal robocalls including protocols to monitor illegal calls and block phone companies that have been identified as transmitting illegal robocalls. A failure to enact and enforce such rules could lead to the FCC banning such companies from accessing the American telephone network.